Log in

No account? Create an account

Spores, Molds, and Fungus

Pop Culture Miscellania

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Here's Johnny (Again)

The novel "Doctor Sleep" has been published: it's Stephen King's sequel to "The Shining". That’s the reason that Salon has asked him again about Stanely Kubrick’s film adaptation of the book, an adaptation which King still dislikes, mostly because he disagrees with its interpretation of the characters.

There's nothing here that King hasn't said before. Going over old ground is irritating for us nerds who know that, but I don’t blame anyone involved with this. The public at large probably doesn’t remember what King said about Kubrick’s adaptation, and reminding them helps stir up interest in “Doctor Sleep”. A little mercenary, but hey, who’s counting?

The real irritations are both the claim that Stanley Kubrick “got wrong” anything, and the claim that his film’s quality and popularity means that King has relinquished his right to complain about it.

Firstly, a director, whether they are as strong as Kubrick or not, can’t “get wrong” something in an adaptation simply by changing it. Even if they alter the core of the story (which King argues that Kubrick has, especially in casting Jack Nicholson as someone who already looks about to go crazy, instead of a broken man who is the unexpected victim of the hotel), they are not “wrong”, but only putting their own spin on things, because they are a separate person from the original writer and must retell the story as they see fit.

That is not to say one can’t dislike adaptations, just that “wrongness” really doesn’t factor into such dislike. It’s all about a personal reaction, not the absolute that “wrongness” suggests. But this also means making room for those who continue to dislike an adaptation, even when the culture at large loves it.

Just because Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” is an excellent film, might be better-remembered than the book, and the TV miniseries can’t surpass it for quality, doesn’t mean that Stephen King can’t say it misrepresents his work. There is no adaptation so good, or so well-known over the original, that it can make an original author’s negative reaction “wrong”.

Even if it’s instinct to pit adaptations against the original work, one version can’t actually “win” over the other. The only complaint might be that King is still airing his grievances after so many years, but he was asked to do it, and so the act can only be met with a shrug, not replying that Kubrick’s version has “won” over his novel and so he should be quiet.