Shirley Jackson may not have invented the paranormal investigation genre but her novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ certainly made it an economically viable film genre. There is a history of pulp fiction psychic detectives which is worth searching out but they all involve solving & debunking in a crime context. Some treat the paranormal as real other as fraud. In The Haunting there is no crime & Jackson allows the reader to draw their own conclusions but one feels she was on the side of ‘ghosts’ being real.
Her life was a nightmare in & of itself. A domineering, womanizing husband who controlled her earnings, because as a fragile woman she couldn’t be trusted with money. I simplify but much like other female writers (i.e. Grace Metalious) she was confined by success rather than liberated by it. Much like the investigators of the house who are trapped by psychology and the unknown.
I’ve read some of her novels & enjoyed them, as well as her wonderful short stories. She writes about the paranormal in such a casual way it becomes believable. Her female characters are vivid without being over-the-top. Her plotting is satisfying without explaining every detail. She allows the reader to fill in some blanks.
I’ve talked with people about The Haunting & some say they don’t get the ending – they want something clear cut – is Eleanor delusional? Or has she really made contact with the spirit of the house? They find the horror elements of the book too subtle – no slasher just cold air, noises, door knocking & that chilly hand holding moment.
What inspires me about her writing is how powerful plain language can be; how one can create mood & tension without blood & gore. One doesn’t need literary CGI to give readers goosebumps.
An Empty House
the smell of cooking
warm meals on the table
a pork chop with a bite out of it
a shower running upstairs
steamy vanilla body wash
a damp towel on the sink
a change of clothes on the bed
an email ready to send
a cd on repeat
the same song over and over and over
a cellphone ringing
unattended lawn mower growling on the lawn
echoes in an empty house
October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday
November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
June – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. capfireslam.org
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