by Pearl S. Buck
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So, I’m happy to admit that this is one of the ones I’m least certain about, and that I’ve been wrong before about things I’m only halfway on. Only has the middle word always looked like BUCK, and has the last word always looked like CHINA, to my deciphering eye. If what comes first is actually somehow a PEARL or an S, I’d be as surprised as you. But here’s the (2) thing(s): there is no other author last-named Buck who wrote about China (not to mention that Pearl Buck’s utterly famous for doing so), and there are other books in the room that are evident fabrications. Like, The Manipulator is under 200 pages, while Tiger of the Snows is over 100 pages longer, yet (depending how hard that hardcover is), looks like it’s around equal, if not shorter. The Dickens biography is under 300 pages, while The Wish Child is close to 800. And yeah, print size and paper type makes a difference, but still. These books shouldn’t look identical.
So what I’m wondering is: is it possible that Kubrick had a book made up that made mention on the spine of the involvement of illustrator Federico Castellón, Fred to his friends? Because that really looks like an ELLON before the BUCK.
So unless anyone else can crack the code a different way, I’m going to assume that this was the intended reference, and there’s some good reasons to suspect why. Well, so, actually, Buck put out three books with China as the first word in the title, and since Kubrick framed the spine this way, I wonder if we’re meant to think of it as possibly any of the three. We’ll start with the simplest one: China Flight.
From Biblio.com – “Pearl Buck spins another tale about the Japanese invasion of China in World War II [the Second Sino-Japanese war] in China Flight. It tells the story of Lt. Daniel James, U.S. Marine, and two American women who are captured in Shanghai at the outbreak of the war.”
So it’s interesting that the book would be about a Lt. Daniel, and that it would invoke this other angle, often overlooked, about that period—Japan’s ultraviolent invasion of China. The book also involves a hotel.
As for China As I Know It, the book is a collection of Buck’s speeches and essays about the place, often comparing it to America and finding similarities. I could expand, but the review on this site makes short work of it.
China Sky seems to be the likeliest book (considered one of Buck’s classics), if it was meant to be only one of the three. It concerns an American doctor, the head of a hospital he built in China, and a series of wartime complications involving other Asian and American doctors. Very doctor-heavy. But more interestingly, the 1945 film version, starred the same lead as the film that plays in this room, earlier, Randolph Scott (Carson City). The two films have no other major connection I can see (other than the odd note that both featured a cast member named Thurston), but still. The film also stars Mrs. Citizen Kane herself, Ruth Warrick, which is probably coincidence, but could be Kubrick’s stunningly subtle way of implying he saw The Shining as his masterpiece.
As for Buck as a person, she won the Pulitzer for The Good Earth, was a voracious reader of Dickens, and came to love China by being the child of missionaries (sort of like Lang Shining, who may also be in this room). I could list off her series of humanitarian social efforts, but they are substantial (yet, weirdly, include an effort to have Adolf Eichmann pardoned for his role in killing millions of Jews–perhaps she felt something could be learned about the banality of evil by allowing it to live a natural life).
As for Federico Castellón, he received two Guggenheim fellowships (a pretty big deal, in case you’re unfamiliar), and with regard to his book illustrations, it would seem he was a man after Kubrick’s heart (at least with regard to The Shining‘s subthemes), having worked on The Little Prince, The Story of Marco Polo, Bulfinch’s Mythology (one of the most popular pre-war books on Greek Mythology), and, most incredibly, The Masque of the Red Death. If there was any reason to sneak Castellón onto that spine…it was probably that.
One last thought: there’s a book beneath this one with only four letters exposed, which appear to be HT BO. But this could also be ST BO, in which case, it might be the fifth in the Ghost Book series, The Fifth Ghost Book. And the font is close enough to be the same, I think. I don’t think it’s confirmable either way (and even if it were the series, there’s no way of knowing which volume it was), but if it was that one, then that could speak directly to my Four Horsemen thoughts.
Next literary reference: The Boo
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