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Audio book art based on King and Kubrick: Jack Torrance – What you can get today, …

Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in the movie
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in the movie “Shining” (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Jack Torrance is the name of the writer Stephen King arrives with his family in a snowy orphaned hotel in “Shining”. In his famous film adaptation, director Stanley Kubrick had Jack Torrance write just one infamous sentence. This has turned into a remarkable audio book project.

Note. For those who shouldn’t have seen the movie “Shining” yet, this post contains some spoilers.

For some film buffs, “Shining” is considered the best Stephen King film adaptation and one of the best horror films of all. King himself doesn’t particularly like standing. For him, the acting of lead actor Jack Nicholson, who embodies the writer Jack Torrance, is too dominant. For King, the snow-covered Overlook Hotel with its eerie residents is the real protagonist of the novel. This did not harm the success of the film, because after all, none other than master director Stanley Kubrick was responsible for the script and direction. Kubrick filmed the novel in 1979 and changed some of the plot of the novel.

Jack Torrance works obsessively on his manuscript in the snowed-in hotel and types lonely and obsessively on the typewriter in the large fireplace room. He’s slowly going crazy. Jack’s wife, Wendy, sneaks to the typewriter in an unobserved moment and takes a look at the manuscript. She is horrified to find that Jack has typed just one sentence over and over for hundreds of pages:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

THE SHINING (1980) - "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" [HD]

THE SHINING (1980) – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” [HD]

This scene is an invention of Stanley Kubrick, it does not exist in the Stephen King novel. Kubrick himself had typed in the sentence page by page for the film, as can be seen in the making of “Shining”.

Kubrick was considered a pedantic perfectionist who had some scenes shot over a hundred times and who challenged actors to the utmost. But he also paid attention to details in other things. Even if the same sentence is not seen until late, Jack Nicholson was not allowed to type anything, only always

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Kubrick consciously chose a relatively insignificant American proverb for the sentence, for which there is no real equivalent in German. Loosely translated it reads: “Whoever just works without even having fun becomes a dumb contemporary.”

Director Stanley Kubrick at the typewriter.  Excerpt from the making-of for »The Shining«
Director Stanley Kubrick at the typewriter. Excerpt from the making-of for »The Shining«.

But Kubrick’s perfectionism went even further. For the French, German, Spanish and Italian dubbed versions of the film, he selected similar trivial proverbs, so that, amazingly, the cinema viewers got a sentence to read in their own language. So he had the close-up shot of Wendy’s hands leafing through the manuscript rotated with a different sentence for each language version. For the German version, Stanley Kubrick chose the following sentence:

What you can get today, don’t postpone it until tomorrow.

Unfortunately, this beautiful detail could only be seen in the cinema and on VHS video cassette at the time. In today’s DVD and Bluray version for the Asian-European market, all language versions are combined and unfortunately only the English sentence can be read in the picture.

Stanley Kubrick (* 1928, † 1999) was a director who also influenced the dubbed versions of his films and selected the respective national speakers. For the German voice of Jack Nicholson, Kubrick’s choice fell on the actor Jörg Pleva, who had already dubbed Malcolm McDowell in Kubrick’s film adaptation of “Clockwork Orange”. Jack Nicholson is spoken by Joachim Kerzel in later films.

So Jack Torrance wrote a book in which the same sentence is repeated over and over. What if this book with the sentence “What you can get today, don’t postpone it until tomorrow” had actually been printed? And even more extreme: what if this book with the same sentence would also be available as an audio book – ideally spoken by Jörg Pleva, the German voice from “Shining”?

Excerpt from the book
Excerpt from the book “What you can get today …” by Jack Torrance

There is no need to speculate: there is this printed book and the audio book. Jörg Pleva reads Jack Torrance.

Of course, such a work is more likely to be located in the field of art, and in fact it is published by the artist duo M + M (Marc Weis and Martin De Mattia). The two had the idea to implement it during a stay in the Roman artist and scholarship holder’s villa »Villa Massimo« in 2008 and the small audio publisher »Der Diwan« actually produced the book and audio book at the time, spoken by Jörg Pleva (* 1942, † 2013). In 2007 the artist duo designed a »Torrance Room« in which the sentence and Pleva’s voice could be heard continuously.

The audio book:
The audio book: “What you can get today …”. Jörg Pleva reads Jack Torrance.

On the back of the book you can read:

Jack Torrance wrote the book at the end of 1979 in the Rocky Mountains, where he and his family spent the winter as caretaker in the orphaned “Overlook Hotel”. There he died under tragic circumstances.

Torrance is considered a master of repetition: he always starts with the same words, almost consistently refuses to attempt to go beyond the once made statement.

For around 43 minutes, Jörg Pleva speaks the same sentence over and over again in the audio version. He also does not constantly vary it anew, and yet differences can be heard every time. A slightly disturbing meditative listening experience.

The motto of the book is preceded by the version of the English original “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

By the way, there is another noteworthy side note about this: Some conspiracy theorists claim that the moon landing in 1969 never happened and that the scenes on Earth’s satellite were shot in the studio. Based on his expertise with the film “2001 – Odysee in Space”, Stanley Kubrick is said to have been involved in this deception. Of course, he had to keep it quiet, otherwise there was danger to life and limb.

In the opinion of the conspiracy theorists, however, the film »Shining« is full of hidden clues that Kubrick helped stage the supposed moon landing. Among other things, the carpet in the film hotel has the shape of a launch pad and from it the child actor Danny Lloyd rises with an Apollo 11 rocket as a motif on his knitted sweater.

The word “All” in the notorious sentence could therefore be typewritten Alles even A11 are: A11 for the Apollo 11 lunar rocket. And the lander that touched down on the moon was named “Eagle”.

Jack Torrance typed the sentence on an Adler typewriter.

Jörg Pleva reads: M + M (editor); Marc Weis (editor); Martin DeMattia (Editor); Jack Torrance; Jörg Pleva (speaker): What you can get today ..: The audio book BOOK. Paperback. 2008. Diwan audio book publisher. ISBN / EAN: 9783941009059. 11.90 € »Order at amazon.de advertisement or in bookstores



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