Why you should gobble up Shirley Jackson’s work…
1. ‘The Lottery’ when it was published in The New Yorker in 1948, inspired 1300 people to write in to the magazine. Some were baffled, others outraged and a small percentage wanted to know where in America did this appalling event take place.
2. This short story exemplifies Jackson’s approach to horror. She pushes the ordinary into the territory of the extraordinary. Her short stories often read as though Jackson has had a brilliant idea and then asked herself, ‘what if…?’ – what if a small town in America ran an annual lottery that played into the nature of cruelty and inhumanity? What if a man appeared at a woman’s door, looking like, sounding like and pretending to be her husband, but better? They are fabulous examples of how an idea can ignite a beautifully crafted story.
3. Her ordinary worlds, peopled, often by vulnerable women who are psychologically damaged, slide into the surreal without ever losing their anchor to reality – it’s a brilliant technique. And she focuses very familiar themes – isolation, loneliness, the dysfunctional family – through the lens of the uncanny allowing the reader to witness the fragility of that reality and our certain understanding of the world.
4. She’s not afraid of exploring cruelty, the narrow-mindedness of social conformity or the claustrophobia of marriage.
5. Stephen King regards her as the greatest American horror writer and the malevolent house in The Haunting of Hill House is the best haunted house I’ve come across.