Saturday, 12 January 2008

Weird and wonderful
I'd never heard of Shirley Jackson before I found this (at Borders, which had emailed me one of their members' discount vouchers, which was so good that it was worth a trip downtown to spend).
Anyway, she was born in San Francisco in 1916 and died in 1965, and known for novels and short stories, some of them with a bit of a spooky-cum-supernatural-cum-psychological twist. Her best-known works are the novel, The Haunting of Hill House, and a short story, The Lottery (which you can read here if you have ten to fifteen minutes to treat yourself to something wonderful). The first time The Lottery was published, in the New Yorker in 1949, it caused quite a stir.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) is a deftly-written little gem, only 146 pages, and you can wolf it down in a couple of sittings.
The story and the characters are everything: three survivors of the mass murder of their extended family (familicide?) live holed up in their once-grand mansion, on the outskirts of a village, whose inhabitants treat them with fear and loathing.
Wickedness, superstition, resentment, ritual and great characters abound. The evil is all the more powerful for its origins in the everyday, which seems to have been a theme Jackson enjoyed.
In this Penguin Classics edition (2006), there's a neat introduction by Jonathan Lethen, in which he says succinctly: "She [Jackson] disinterred the wickedness in normality, cataloguing the ways conformity and repression tip into psychosis, persecution and paranoia, into cruelty and its masochistic, injury-cherishing twin."
Recommended.

1 comment:

Lazy cow said...

I'm currently reading her accounts of life with her 4 children: Life among the savages and Raising Demons (thanks to Book Mooch). Thanks for the link to The Lottery. It's hard to get her books here in Australia, but I've managed :-)