The Queen of Horror Fiction
Even though she gained popularity during her life, Jackson often refused interviews and avoided the press. Instead, she lived in small-town Vermont, focused on her family. As indicated by her amusing memoir Life Among the Savages, she and her husband Stanley Hyman, a literary critic, collected thousands of books and cultivated a literary atmosphere in their home. Even though she is probably best-known for her short story “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson was no one-hit-wonder. If you can't read her entire collection (as I have!), at least peruse these:
The Haunting of Hill House
In her most famous novel, Jackson sets the eerie mood of the story within the first lines:
“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
She brilliantly explores the idea of a house, not necessarily the ghosts, acting as the driving force behind phenomena.
In this short story, Jackson has taken a perfectly mundane event – a secretary going across town on an errand – and turned it into a menacing, tormented affair.
“Honeymoon of Mrs. Smith”
A woman is on a honeymoon with her new husband. The downside? Her spouse is rumored to have killed his six previous wives. In true Jackson fashion, you can assume this won't end well.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Two sisters fend for themselves in a huge manor house, at odds with the locals and dealing with the mysteries behind their parents' untimely deaths.
“The Possibility of Evil”
Jackson again explores the darker undercurrents of small-town America. An unknown sender of cruel and passive aggressive notes is discovered.