The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Shirley Jackson’


March 19, 2014 | by

Foreclosed homes as haunted houses.


Photo: Casey Serin

My wife and I began searching for a house in 2008, just as the market was crashing, just as those first waves of foreclosed homes and short sales were hitting the market. Priced out of Los Angeles real estate for so long, we were finally able to afford houses whose prices had been ridiculously inflated only six months earlier. Occasionally we went to those open houses with smiling realtors and bowls of candy set out, where owners had recently landscaped or repainted to enhance value, but we could never seriously consider any of these. The homes that mattered had lock boxes, were abandoned or in the process of being abandoned—the ones that reeked of disrepair and despair.

We spent the summer touring nearly every distressed property in the neighborhoods East of Hollywood: Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park, and Atwater Village—every abandoned or half-abandoned monstrosity and beloved ruin, looking for a home. I still have a hard time articulating the sense of dread and fascination those houses stirred in me. The feeling of moving through these spaces—particularly as we were visiting seven or eight of them in an afternoon—was indescribable. A sense of wrongness pervaded so many of these homes. I’m not superstitious—I don’t believe in spirits or forces or haunted houses—but much of our lexicon in these cases depends on notions of the supernatural; in the end, the only word that seems useful for talking about the houses is unheimlich—a German word, literally “unhomely” or “not of the home,” “unfamiliar.” It’s more idiomatically translated as “uncanny”: a word that Freud plucked and repurposed from the realm of the supernatural. Read More »


What We’re Loving: Boar Hearts, Panic, and Shirley Jackson

May 24, 2013 | by

  Laurel Nakadate, Kalispell, Montana #1, 2013

Laurel Nakadate, Kalispell, Montana #1, 2013.

I stayed up much too late finishing Shirley Jackson’s newly reissued Hangsaman—and then was so spooked it took me another two hours and a warm milk to finally fall asleep. The novel, loosely based on the unsolved 1947 disappearance of Bennington College student Paula Jean Welden, is as scary as The Haunting of Hill House, as chilling as “The Lottery,” and as weird as We Have Always Lived in the Castle. (And that’s saying something!) Perfect reading for a gloomy weekend, if not a work night. —Sadie Stein

“Head shot for boar! Open him up! There’s no taste like live boar-heart while it’s still beating in your hand!” Thus Hermann Göring in The Hunters of Karinhall, a movie script by Terry Southern. The script was never produced, oddly enough—but it is newly excerpted in Hot Heart of Boar & Other Tastes, a little chapbook of Southern snippets and outtakes and put-ons that had me laughing before my second cup of coffee. —Lorin Stein

Read More »


“The Lottery”: PG-13 Version

October 31, 2012 | by

In honor of the master of the creepy story, Shirley Jackson, we bring you this incredibly misleading pulp paperback cover. It must have led to some really disappointed —or freaked out—readers. Also: who is this demon lover of which they speak?




Staff Picks: Wikileaks Crudity, Jay-Z, Infinite DFW

December 10, 2010 | by

This has been a week of emotionally taxing reading. First, Shirley Jackson's deliciously creepy tales (“The Lottery” has nothing on “The Summer People,” by the way), then Joyce Carol Oates’s New Yorker article on her husband’s sudden death and the advent of unexpected widowhood, and finally, a smattering of Marina Tsvetaeva’s vulnerable, heartfelt poems. Next week: Maybe I’ll lighten things up with a little Don Marquistoujours gai! —Nicole Rudick

A copy of The New Yorker’s newly minted 20 Under 40 book, edited by Deborah Treisman, landed on my desk. The colors on the spine are festively appropriate for the holidays (just like our fresh-off-the-press winter issue). Some of my favorites (and there are many): Daniel Alarcón’s “Second Lives,” (check out what he wrote for us this week); Salvatore Scibona’s “The Kid”; and C. E. Morgan’s “Twins.” —Thessaly La Force

Jed Perl’s pox-on-both-your-houses treatment of l'affair Wojnarowicz and its “Wikileaks crudity.” —David Wallace-Wells

Read More »


Halloween Reads; Seducing a Writer

October 22, 2010 | by

I recently found myself craving some terrifying literature—the idea of reading something frightening feels so seasonally appropriate. That said, I’d like to avoid fiction that panders to generic tropes and also isn’t by Irving or Poe. Could you recommend a work of genuine literary merit that’s also disturbing and Halloween-ish? —Ryan Sheldon

Two spooky writers spring immediately to mind: Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter. Jackson is the more Hallowe’eny of the two. You might begin with her last novel, first published in 1962 (and reissued last year), We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I’m not sure what you mean about generic tropes: This is absolutely pure New England Gothic, but there is no pandering in it. I think the literature of the uncanny depends on genre conventions—and, at its most uncanny, plays with them, so the spooky and the banal get mixed up together.

Readers of The Daily have seen me recommend Angela Carter’s stories, collected in Burning Your Boats. They are favorites of mine. (Burning Your Boats came to me, originally, as a present from kid-lit expert Laura Miller. It is one of those favorite books that I lent out years ago and never got back.) When Carter rewrites a fairytale, she doesn’t make light of it, she finds what is really and truly disturbing in the original and burnishes that until it shines. If you like Bruno Bettelheim, you’ll love Angela Carter.

Read More »