Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin

SHIRLEY JACKSON: A RATHER HAUNTED LIFE is Ruth Franklin’s biography of the author made famous for the story “The Lottery,” a deceptively simple tale whose twist ending astonished both critics and readers alike. Tons of mail arrived in her small New England town post office box, some of it conspiracy laden, as if Michael Jackson had just been sighted moon walking on the moon! Was the Lottery real or fake? they asked. Fiction or non? Read by the aptly chosen and always engaging Bernadette Dunne (from a lottery of possibilities to narrate), the memoir of Jackson (1916–1965) covers her entire life, both personal and professional. There are interesting little known facts here, too, such as her husband’s jealousy, infidelity, and his domineering yet admiring attitude (which mirrored her mother’s) leading to her amphetamine and tranquilizer addiction. From the grave, Jackson speaks to women in the current era, chronicling the exploitation and self image struggles of one incredibly talented writer known for understatement and poetic insight into a cultural psyche now out in the open, as violence and evil are no longer in hiding. Haunting, indeed. We tend today to think horror is most horrifying when there are huge special effects applied. Monsters dispatched with guns blazing. Not so. Real horror is subtle, and multi-layered. One thing goes askew, one floater in the plot points to that iceberg beneath the dark waters just when you realize it’s too late to maneuver around it. Less is more, especially if there is much more there than you thought. A must hear AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. One of the best biographies ever.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. From the publisher: “Past the rusted gates and untrimmed hedges, Hill House broods and waits. Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own. This classic horror novel has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror.” Stephen King: “There are few, if any, descriptive passages in the English language that are finer than the opening to Hill House. It is the sort of quiet epiphany that every writer hopes for. Words that somehow transcend the sum of the parts.” Hill House was optioned by Netflix for a 10 episode series to air sometime in 2018.  

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