A review of the novel Jack Nicholson writes in The Shining

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I have just finished All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy, the debut novel by the late Jack Torrance, and I do not hesitate to call it the greatest English work of the past 50 years. It is nothing short of a complete rethinking of what a novel can and should be.

At the risk of spoiling the book, let me repeat what you may well have heard from the tabloid press and late-night comedians. All Work consists of a single sentence, repeated over and over for hundreds of pages. Some will dismiss it as simplistic; that’s like dismissing a Pollack canvas as mere splatters of paint.

It’s true that, taken on its own, All Work is plotless. But like the best of Beckett, the lack of forward momentum is precisely the point. If it’s nearly impossible to read, let us take a moment to consider how difficult it must have been to write. One is forced to consider the author, heroically pitting himself against the Sisyphusean sentence. It’s that metatextual struggle of Man vs. Typewriter that gives this book its spellbinding power.

Sadly, Mr. Torrance’s legacy has been tarnished by his widow. The couple and their young son spent the last winter of his life as caretakers of a remote mountain resort, where he put his masterpiece to paper. Mrs. Torrance has claimed that he tried to kill her and the boy in a fit of madness. Personally, I believe she is the real murderer. Mr. Torrance was found frozen to death in a hedge maze, days after his wife and son abandoned him. I find it likely that this betrayal drove him, if not to suicide, then at least to ignore his own safety during a treacherous Colorado snowstorm.

Thankfully, Mr. Torrance was able to complete All Work before his untimely death. (Although truthfully, the book’s unconventional nature makes it difficult to say whether it’s “complete” or not.) For most of his adult life, Torrance has worked as a teacher, his genius going to waste. Call it poetic justice that the resort at which he became an author is called the “Overlook Hotel.”

All Work out-moderns modernism. It surpasses post-modernism. I can only refer to it as “most-modernism.” I could easily write thousands of words on Mr. Torrance’s accomplishment, but I’ll heed the book’s advice and end my work here. Suffice to say, All Work and No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy is a shining achievement.

19 Comments on “A review of the novel Jack Nicholson writes in The Shining”

  1. mlawski #

    You didn’t even talk about the typos! That’s the most interesting part! Are those extra or missing letters part of a code? Do they represent the minor but ultimately meaningless differences between one day and the next to the modern American man? Do they represent play in a world of mind-numbing work?

    I look forward to your response.

     
  2. fenzel #

    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
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    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

    That’s my favorite part.

     
  3. Gab #

    That’s what *she* said.

     
  4. Topher #

    Fenzel’s comment is an illegal publication of the Chapter 4 of “All Work” and for the site’s sake, this post should be taken down for copyright reasons.

     
  5. Gab #

    Ok, you know how I am a defender of intellectual property. So this hurts. He has a goddamned loophole. Even though technically the excerpt is written incorrectly because every new line in a quote should open with its own quotation mark (like when you quote poetry) unless the ecxerpt is indented or italicized or given its own font, he has quotes at the beginning and end of it. Un*less* the fact that he himself doesn’t say the title or author is grounds for jail time- but I doubt that would hold much water in court, since he posted the chapter on a discussion about the book.

     
  6. lee #

    There’s an ad for Fairfield University’s MFA Creative Writing program at the top of this page: “Inspire the Writer Within.”

    I love Google AdSense irony.

     
  7. Matthew Belinkie #

    Shana -

    To respond out of character, you’re right, I totally missed a chance to riff on the typos and formatting. Good catch.

     
  8. fenzel #

    “What I wrote is protected under Fair Use.”

    - _What to Say When You Plagarize On the Internet_, Overthinkingit Press, pp. 143-144

     
  9. Gab #

    Eff you, fenzel.

     
  10. Alaina Hammond #

    It becomes duller by the second chapter, a perfect example of content matching the form. When it becomes less dull toward the end, due to your own frustration, amusement, and horrified knowledge oh how the author died, you provide your own climax. You become its author.

    So thank you, Jack, for allowing us to essentially co-author your masterpiece. I will sue your widow for residual checks.

     
  11. Loloanvas #

    I WANT TO KILL MY WIFE

     
  12. Davor The Axe #

    The usual internet bravado, over theorising everything.

    Everyone’s a critic, but ultimately opinions are like arseholes – everybody has one. Anyone who doesn’t is full of sh*t :)

    Boring boring boring!

     
  13. fenzel #

    “The usual internet bravado, over theorising everything.”

    My Web site URL.

    Let me show you it.

     
  14. William #

    Did anyone else find the ending rather predictable?

     
  15. Elvisload #

    I couldn’t put it down…