I got a lovely email from Chauceriangirl telling me she loved my blog & expressing her shared admiration for my dear beloved Shirley Jackson. (The link takes you to a great post she wrote about Shirley Jackson inspired by our email exchange.)
In her email, she wrote (printed with her permission):
I just spent a little more time at your blog than I usually do, and noticed that you have Shirley Jackson listed as one of your favourite writers. I have loved her since I was a kid. My mother had Raising Demons and I loved it, and was even more fascinated later on when I found her other works and tried to put them together with the mental image I had of the mother in Raising Demons. She fascinates me. I’ve read everything I’ve been able to find by and about her, and wish there were more available.
I think Shirley Jackson is extremely underrated. She’s best known as the writer of the creepiest short story you’ll ever be forced to read in 11th grade English (“The Lottery”). You also might know her as the author of The Haunting of Hill House, which was made into a movie in the 60s with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom, and in the 90s with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor. The first one is awesome.
What you probably don’t know is that Jackson’s books is that underneath their gothic trappings they’re acutely observed expressions of a particular kind of postwar panicked malaise that I’ve never seen dealt with anywhere else. Her characters are traumatized and damaged, yet many of them seem curiously unwilling to do anything about it. They’re not garrulous analysands, nor are they in proactive, capable self-denial. They know something is deeply, deeply wrong, and construct elaborate psychological artifices to cope without coping.
She’s also wickedly funny (my favorite story of hers is “Charles”) and knows how to scare you silly. My favorite book of hers, Hangsaman, is hard to find, but I highly recommend Hill House and if you like that, give We Have Always Lived in the Castle a try.
Today’s work read was a melodrama wrapped in a detective procedural that made me wish Alfred Hitchcock were still around.