I can’t believe this is reading 400, but there it is. I’m putting a post together of the best links from the batch, but for now it seems only fitting that my dive back into the archive is accompanied by Jon Ronson’s documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, in which Ronson sifts through some of Kubrick’s thousand-odd boxes of photos, memos, notebooks, and tapes.
An enormous, abandoned, unreachable hotel; a delusional, axe-murdering psychopath; a clairvoyant, telepathic child; and a frail, scared young woman: a cursory list of elements in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining would seem to position it squarely within the horror film genre. Couple this with the fact that it shares these elements with an earlier novel by Stephen King, who has built an entire literary career out of manipulating the narrative conventions of the American ghost story—a genre that has been part of our oral history since the start of European settlement in the 1600s—and you might have the beginning of argument that places King’s text at the center of the film’s success. Kubrick’s adaptation does share several key elements with King’s original, including a certain foundation in genre, but few critics attribute the film’s success to King. Even King’s fans do not claim it as one of “the master’s.” In a pamphlet entitled “The Films of Steven King,” enthusiast Michael R. Collings admits, “the best approach to Kubrick’s The Shining is to divorce it from any connections with Stephen King—not because Kubrick failed to do justice to King’s narrative, but simply because it has ceased to be King’s.” Cultural critic Frederic Jameson takes this argument even further, writing in his book Signatures of the Visible that “the genre does not yet transmit a coherent ideological message, as Stephen King’s mediocre original testifies.” Indeed, as Jameson suggests, Kubrick’s adaptation, while it maintains elements necessary to cue the genre of the horror film, expands King’s work of popular entertainment into a thoroughly postmodern work of art.