All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Now this is a great piece of news for Stephen King obsessives like myself – remember the novel that Jack Torrance was writing in the film version of The Shining?

It’s one of the film’s most revealing moments – Torrance is ostensibly using the winter solitude to write a book, but when his wife takes a look at the ms she discovers that the novel consists of the same phrase repeated again and again.

Well, Torrance’s book has been published:

A Stephen King fan has published an 80-page version of the book which novelist Jack Torrance obsessively writes during King’s The Shining, where his descent into madness is revealed when his wife discovers that his work consists of just one phrase, endlessly repeated.

Now New York artist Phil Buehler, who describes himself as ‘a big fan of Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King’, has self-published a book credited to Torrance, repeating the phrase throughout but formatting each page differently, using the words to create different shapes from zigzags to spirals.

He said he decided to stick to type and formatting that could have been created on a typewriter, with the first ten pages duplicating shots of Torrance’s work from the film. ‘I thought ‘if he continues to get crazier, what would those pages look like?’ he said. ‘I hit writer’s block about 60 pages in, and I had to get to 80 – that went on for about a week.’ His fiancée, who had neither read the book nor seen the film, became a little concerned about his actions. ‘I finally showed her the movie, and she realised I wasn’t really losing it,’ said Buehler.

Buehler includes a mock jacket review from a blog called

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy is nothing short of a complete rethinking of what a novel can and should be. 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. Some will dismiss it as simplistic; that’s like dismissing a Pollack canvas as mere splatters of paint.

In the original of The Shining, of course, Torrance is working on a play, rather than a book: can we look forward to the posthumous staging of The Little School?

This play, which dealt with the father/son conflict that underlies the novel, pitted a tyrannical headmaster against a bright, keen pupil. King uses Torrance’s art to chart his madness in a more subtle way that does Kubrick, having the hotel slyly warp Torrance’s understanding of his characters.

Until the Torrance revival in the London theatre we shall just have to be content with All Work and No Play. I look forward to the Mitchelmore review in the Financial Times.



One Response to “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

  1. willoworld Says:

    My idea first

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