An Old Friend in a New Format

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Looking back on it, I definitely had low expectations when reaching into the depths of my mother’s childhood closet. I was an avid reader in middle school, and I was instructed to dig through a cardboard box stuffed with paperbacks to see if I wanted to keep any. I expected to come across old classics, a high school workbook or two (not exactly of interest), and a senior year yearbook (VERY of interest – put aside to peruse later).

But what I didn’t expect: unearthing a worn, dog-eared copy of The Shining by Stephen King (DB 51373). 

Stephen King! There was a name I recognized. Some months prior I pulled a copy of It from my local library’s shelf just to inspect the jacket, freak myself out, and scurry back to the YA section. My mother’s copy of The Shining was borrowed by friends and well-loved, sporting all the good-natured annotations of a kid my age (My favorite: a smile drawn on the faceless head featured on the cover). 

It might have been the ballpoint smiley face, but The Shining seemed less intimidating than the novel starring the homicidal clown. In The Shining, Jack Torrance becomes the winter caretaker for the notorious Overlook Hotel, hoping to catch a reprieve from his past demons and focus on his writing. He brings his wife and five year old son with him to live out the wintry months in total, snowbound isolation. 

With no YA section to turn to for comfort, my curiosity seized the wheel, and I devoured that novel. For every errand my family ran that week I stayed behind, curled up in the back seat of a hot car, paging obsessively through the horrors of the Overlook Hotel. My sense of dread sharpened with each chapter. It was impossible to stop.

My love for The Shining grew over the next decade into a deep appreciation for the horror genre as a whole, in every form. That being said, I recently began wondering: how does The Shining hold up as an audiobook? Again, I had wary expectations. Does the looming terror of the novel (and the movie!) carry over successfully to the audiobook?

My resounding answer: YES. My expectations were exceeded. I’ll be exploring audiobook horror in the future, as this quickly became my go-to listen during my evening commute. The Shining is masterfully narrated by Ray Hagen, a narrator who truly understands the genre and delights in the various voices allowed by the colorful figures haunting the Overlook Hotel. There’s a curled snarl to the way Hagen reads King’s more sinister passages, and I found myself flinching at details I had missed before.

When reading a physical copy, I’m one to sometimes skim a page, or skip ahead a couple of sentences. But with the audiobook, there is no such easy escape from the Overlook Hotel. I was right there with the Torrance family for every skin-crawling encounter.

The Shining is available in audiobook and standard print through the Carnegie Library system.