The Haunting Words of Shirley Jackson

Today, Dec. 14, is the birthday of horror and mystery writer Shirley Jackson.

Jackson was born in 1916. She died in 1965 from a heart condition at the age of 48. In her short life, she wrote six novels, two memoirs, and many short stories.

Her most famous work includes the short story “The Lottery,” and her books The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read all of Jackson’s work. She is one of my favorite writers based on just one novel—The Haunting of Hill House, published in 1959.

The book had a tremendous impact on me. Its mix of psychological horror and ambiguity (see, for example, its enigmatic ending) makes it one of the best-ever haunted house stories.

The book’s opening paragraph is especially powerful:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

What beautiful and evocative writing.

I recommend the book if you’re interested in horror and/or interesting character studies. Or if you just like good writing in general.

There have been several film and TV adaptations of the book. Check out my take on Netflix’s 2018 TV series based on the novel.

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