The Boo – 1970

by Pat Conroy

I’m not entirely certain I have this right, but I noticed recently, that this book that looked more like Mary Roberts Reinhart’s The Door in the wide shot, looks more like it’s missing the “R” in “DOOR” here, and so I did a search on the only two things it could be (going by the shape of the letters), which is “The Doo” and “The Boo”. And sure enough we’ve got this book, which has the right combo of black with gold letters, with the letters looking just about right, if not perfect – I suspect there was a paperback which might look more accurate. It’s possible Kubrick switched the books between scenes (most of the books shift around between shots), but maybe it was always The Boo, I’m not sure.

Anyhow, I’m not going to sign off on this being 100% right, since it’s almost impossible to be sure about the lettering, but if I am right (and there’s virtually no alternatives it could be), there’s a few interesting things to point out.

The book tells the true story of Conroy’s cadet experiences at a military academy known as “The Citadel”. There happens to be a mountain in several of the opening shots of the film called The Citadel, mirroring over the shots of the black and white faces of the fancy partygoers.

The book caused such a rift between Conroy for its “unflattering” portrayal of the school’s conditions, that it would take 30 years for the rift to heal. A follow-up novel, The Lords of Discipline (1980), would fictionalize his experiences, depicting brutal hazing and abuse of the students, and has to do with the uncovering of a secret society called The Ten. Several paintings around the hotel are by the Group of Seven, and Jack is passing three in the below mirrorform shot (14:34-14:43). That’s probably a coincidence, given that Conroy’s book came out the same year that Kubrick was in post-production. But perhaps there was some allusion to whatever the real life version of “The Ten” was in The Boo.

“The Boo” was the nickname for a beloved father figure at the Citadel named Thomas Nugent Courvoisie. So, since this is right beside The Fourth Ghost Book, there’s a certain ghosty vibe connection there, and sure enough, in the mirrorform, when this book first appears, Jack is passing the spot where Wendy will hear the one comment she hears from a ghost: “Great party, isn’t it?”

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It appears better when Wendy’s asking what indeed was the matter with Danny, to which the doctor replies that these things are almost never explained (15:06-15:18), while her mirror self realizes that she’s been saved by Hallorann (a father figure to Danny), and can now escape the bathroom.

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It last appears over the shots of Danny running to his hidey hole, and Dick driving to the rescue (15:53-15:58). So, going by the Avenue of the Dead analysis, it’s interesting that 15:58 would be its last second onscreen, since it seems that Dick’s ghost ends up in room 238, where he might just end up saying “boo” to future guests.

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Also, fun fact: it’s said that Stephen King wanted Jon Voight for the Jack Torrance role, since he thought Voight had more of an everyman quality that would be more thrilling to watch disintegrate. And in my recent analysis of the novel, I noticed that one of the mafia goons murdered at the hotel has the last name Boorman, which is the name of the guy (John Boorman) who directed Deliverance, starring Jon Voight (there’s more to say about that, but I’ll leave that for that other analysis). And then I noticed that Voight played Pat Conroy in the 1974 adaptation of his next book, called Conrack, which tells of his life as the white teacher to the descendants American slaves on an isolated island of South Carolina. And as you can see on the film’s poster, it’s named that because of the way people screwed up his actual name. Doesn’t that echo the Delbert/Charles Grady business?

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Next literary reference: Orange Wednesday