Hmmm... certainly moody and Gothic. The best part was the descriptions of the moors. But this somehow lacked surprise and suspense. It was kind of fun...moreHmmm... certainly moody and Gothic. The best part was the descriptions of the moors. But this somehow lacked surprise and suspense. It was kind of funny to imagine the Cornish moors in winter while driving through devilishly hot Utah in the summer.
As far as this audio edition: I really liked the narration by Tony Britton - he does a fabulous Cornish accent. And the characters have distinct voices and accents, so it's easy to tell them apart. But when he does the innkeeper's wife - Aunt Patience - I swear he was channeling Dobby the House Elf. (less)
A moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few n...moreA moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few notes on this edition: Although Joyce Carol Oates is the editor, she only selected the included novels and short stories. Sadly, there is no preface or comment from her. Also, the book is printed on exceedingly thin paper, which you can clearly see the type through from the other side. It makes it quite hard to read. I probably won't be reading a similar edition again.
The Lottery: 5/5 An excellent collection of short fiction with recurring motifs and a mysterious and somewhat menacing outlying character, James Harris. Like multi-colored threads through the tales, Jackson unobtrusively challenges the reader to find those connections, and draw comparisons. David Mitchell used this technique in Cloud Atlas, but Jackson is a master weaver. Some stories are outright horrific, but most would be classified as mid-century gothic - full of subtle, eerie charm. The recurring objects, words, names, and motifs were drawn from an old Scottish Ballad "The Daemon Lover," a stanza of which is included as an epigraph.
In an essay included in this collection, "Biography of a Story," Jackson tells about how "The Lottery" (the eponymous story, first published in The New Yorker in 1948) created more hate mail and buzz than the magazine had ever seen. She insists that there is no hidden meaning and allegory in the story. "It's just a story." She republished snippets from these troll-ish letters, and they look so tame and twee compared to today's internet trolls. She was shocked how many people wrote to her insisting on knowing what village, in what State these events took place. With her usual dry humor, she says "...if I thought this was a valid cross-section of the reading public, I would give up writing."
The Haunting of Hill House: 3/5 A fun little haunted house story. A bit divulgative, though. It lacked the subtlety of The Lottery, but quite entertaining nonetheless. It was fun to see a few objects mentioned in The Lottery make reappearances in The Haunting of Hill House. This would be a perfect quick, spooky read around Halloween. You'll spend most of your time trying to figure out "Whodunnit?" and "Who's the red shirt?" Finally, for the last bit of fun, there are lesbian undertones throughout the story, which hints to Jackson's own close relationship to a French student in college. (I'll freely admit, I'm interpolating from the chronological sketch, but it's hard to dismiss.)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle: 5/5 Well, holy crap. Creepy, crazy, wild story. After reading about Jackson's life story, I can understand Jackson's general vitriol towards village residents. In her real life in Vermont, her family was harassed, bullied and house defaced because they were "outsiders." Jackson herself became housebound after social interactions became too difficult to bear.
This story had one of the more interesting male characters - Old, crazy uncle Julian. It's curious how most of Jackson's stories have female protagonists who are either deceptive or going against the grain. Jackson's mother continually referred to younger brother was the "obedient" child and Jackson as the "willful" child. In turn, most male characters are sketches or
Other stories and essays: 3/5 Like most short story anthologies, it's quite a mixed bag here, presented in chronological order. It was fun to watch Jackson's writing evolve and mature - she became sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and a master of twists. The best of the bunch were: "A Visit," dedicated to Dylan Thomas, an admirer of Jackson's; "Louisa Please Come Home"; and The Bus. There are also a few of Jackson's sketches from her own family stories.
After overdosing on Shirley Jackson, if you are only going to read one book of her's, read The Lottery.(less)
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemi...moreO Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.
Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?
I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more filthiness between the lines of the book. I can see why it got Lewis renounced as MP. Naughty, naughty man. But thanks for giving us such a fun book!
--------- I just wanted to update my review with a list of the cool words I found in The Monk:
* probity: integrity and uprightness; honesty. * opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy. * Mountebank: a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc. * perfidy: deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: perfidy that goes unpunished. * iniquity: gross injustice or wickedness. * prolix: extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy.(less)
"Johansen and his men were awed by the cosmic majesty of this dripping Babylon of elder daemons, and must have guessed without guidance that it was nothing of this or of any sane planet."
"The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled."
"I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager to loose them upon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave their monstrous stone city again to the sun and air."
"The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." (less)
As long as there is something happening with Dracula at the heart of the action, the story is riveting and sensational. When the characters decide to...moreAs long as there is something happening with Dracula at the heart of the action, the story is riveting and sensational. When the characters decide to document long monologues, you’ll want to fall asleep while examining your hangnails and chanting something nonsensical.
Most GoodReaders have noted that much of the story in the second half really starts to fall apart – it’s dull and boring, and Dracula is conspicuously absent. I’ll sum it up as “O, woe is Mina! Whatever shall we do, gentlemen?” It is not coincidental that through these parts Van Helsing, that German-uttering, all-knowing, lover-of-his-own-voice, charismatic Dutchman, is at the center of this latter-half “action.” Thank the heavens Van Helsing didn’t himself keep a diary!
However, don’t let these flaws deter you from reading the seminal Vampire novel! The first half in particular is delicious in its slow build-up of tension. The terror is in the unseen, the unknown. Every little detail that emerges – like Dracula descending down a wall face down – not only establishes the dark mood but also drops those little nuggets that makes the characters and the reader question their reality and sanity. Slowly they build up into the horrifying realization that it is true: this Un-Dead creature has more power and cunning than previously thought.
I was comforted to know that contemporaneous opinions of Dracula agree with our modern assessments:
Athenaeum, June 26, 1897: “The early part goes best, for it promises to unfold the roots of mystery and fear lying deep in human nature; but the want of skill and fancy grows more and more conspicuous. The people who band themselves together to run the vampire to earth have no real individuality or being. The German man of science is particularly poor, and indulges, like a German, in much weak sentiment. Still, Mr. Stoker has got together a number of ‘horrid details,’ and his object, assuming it is to be ghastliness, is fairly well fulfilled. Isolated scenes and touches are probably quite uncanny enough to please those for whom they are designed.”
Specator, July 31, 1897: “Mr. Bram Stoker gives us the impression… of having deliberately laid himself out in Dracula to eclipse all previous efforts in the domain of the horrible, – to ‘go one better’ than Wilkie Collins… Its strength lies in the invention of incident, for the sentimental element is decidedly mawkish. Mr. Stoker has shown considerable ability in the use that he has made all the available traditions of vampirology, but we think his story would have been all the more effective if he had chosen an earlier period. The up-to-dateness of the book – the phonograph diaries, typewriters, and so on – hardly fits in with the medieval methods which ultimately secure the victory for Count Dracula’s foes.”(less)