Shirley Jackson

by John J. Miller on May 23, 2010 · 1 comment

in Explore the Vault

  • Sumo

This week, the Library of America issues its Shirley Jackson volume, Novels and Stories. It includes The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and “The Lottery.”

Just before Halloween last year, I wrote on Jackson for the Wall Street Journal. The piece opens with a description of how Jackson came to write The Haunting of Hill House:

One morning in the 1950s, a housewife in Vermont woke up, walked downstairs, and found a note on a desk in her own handwriting. She didn’t remember leaving it the night before. The message was simple and stark: “DEAD DEAD.”

These cryptic words would have unsettled a lot of people, but not Shirley Jackson. She took them as a somnambulant inspiration and went on to compose what is now widely regarded as the greatest haunted-house story ever written. “I had no choice,” she said. “The ghosts were after me.”

  • Bryan Leed

    I had to read Shirley Jackson stuff in 5th grade and 10th grade. Not too bad, actually memorable, if only because I remember having to read it. In the 5th grade they even showed us a b/w movie short that acted out the short story of “The Lottery,” which I remember more than the reading. “The Lottery” stuck in my head the way folks are ruthless and bloodthirsty, contrasted against being the victim of ruthless bloodthirst, and also how an author slowly reveals the surprise and building suspense in their story.

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