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The Shining Path


In Barcelona I have a car waiting to take me to Sitges, a half-hour drive down the Catalan coast. I’m two days ahead of my cousin Tim, who arranged for the car, or who arranged for the person who arranged for the car, and who was still in Hamburg for a screening of his documentary, Room 237. The film is an investigation into the multiple, cryptic, and somewhat ludicrous meanings that a number of obsessives claim Stanley Kubrick planted in his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, a novel that has no similar allegations — that is, that it’s about something other than what it is obviously about: a possessed hotel and its deranged winter caretaker. Sitges was the next stop on Tim’s tour of international film festivals.

Among the theories held by the fans interviewed in Room 237: (1) The Shining is really a veiled confession by Kubrick that he conspired with NASA to fake the footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing; (2) it’s really about the genocide of the Native Americans; (3) it’s a commentary on the Holocaust; (4) it’s not a horror story at all but actually a very slick vehicle for pulling off a series of seemingly pointless subliminal erotic gags. When I first saw Tim’s documentary, it was hard not to feel that my cousin had at last found the right pulpit for addressing the subject of belief — something from which we had both more or less extricated ourselves, not without gore, as the elder sons of sibling pastors from the Midwest.

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is the author, most recently, of Kingdom Under Glass (Picador). His last article for Harper’s Magazine, “Fool at War,” appeared in the October 2005 issue.

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