Female Author Spotlight Day 3

Shirley Jackson

‘I can’t help it when people are frightened,’ says Merricat. ‘I always want to frighten them more.’ “

Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived In The Castle

Best Known for her work in the genres of horror and mystery, Shirley Jackson wrote six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories. Her best short story, most of you may know from your time in school, was “The Lottery.” The story is about a small town participating in the lottery every year. Only at the end does one find out what winning the lottery really means. Similar to yesterday’s highlighted female author, Madeleine L’Engle, I enjoy Shirley Jackson because of her quirky and different characters. I have read two of Jackson’s novels along with “The Lottery,” and I immensely enjoyed both of them. The characters she creates, and the way Jackson writes has such a unique word choice and pattern. I enjoy that many conversations characters have in the books appear to be fantastical, and often regarded by many of the more “normal” people as odd. I think it is absolute genius to have one of your characters be enamored with living on the moon with golden spoons. The storytelling often follows a similar pattern.

The Haunting of Hill House

I recently finished reading The Haunting of Hill House. As I am sure with many of you, my first dip into this story was the very successful Netflix television series. I loved the series, but let me tell you the book is quite different. Did that mean I disliked the book? Quite the contrary; I enjoyed it even more. Now, I had two stories about the infamous Hill House! It was also really interesting to see where Netflix got their ideas from while reading the original story. As long as you are not biased towards to TV show; I think you should really read The Haunting of Hill House. It lives up to its title of horror defining and best literary ghost story. The book has also inspired other movies and theatricals.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

The other Jackson novel I have read is We Have Always Lived In The Castle. It is less of a horror and more of a thriller than The Haunting of Hill House. It definitely dives more into a psychological realm rather than a supernatural one. Plus, lots of family and small town drama. Who doesn’t want to read about that, right? Fantastic characters that really make you think placed in a very unusual, yet interesting setting. Also, adapted into a film with one of my favorite actors, Sebastian Stan.

Shirley Jackson has claimed her spot in the horror and mystery genre of literature. The Shirley Jackson Awards are now given in her honor to new authors and pieces of works in those areas. Many famous authors, such as Steven King and Neil Gaiman, cite her as an inspiration for their own work. However, the thing I love most about Shirley Jackson is the wit, life, and humor she would put into her books about death and horror. She named one her memoirs Living with Savages to discuss life with her children. Hilarious! Also, on my to be read list. I leave you now with a few quotes attributed to her before you run to the library and check out her books.

‘The persona that Jackson presented to the world was powerful, witty, even imposing,’ wrote Zoë Heller in the New Yorker.‘She could be sharp and aggressive with fey Bennington girls and salesclerks and people who interrupted her writing. Her letters are filled with tartly funny observations. Describing the bewildered response of New Yorker readers to ‘The Lottery,’ she notes, ‘The number of people who expected Mrs. Hutchinson to win a Bendix washing machine at the end would amaze you.’ “

Zoe Heller, New Yorker

‘She did work hard,’ her son Laurence said. ‘She was always writing, or thinking about writing, and she did all the shopping and cooking, too. The meals were always on time. But she also loved to laugh and tell jokes. She was very buoyant that way.’ “

Laurence Jackson

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