#
July 24, 2016, 6:58 p.m.

My Review of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Plague Doctor

I picked this book up mainly because I had heard it was really fucking scary. So I was not sure what I was expecting maybe something more along the lines of Clive Barker, but I expected bad shit to go down immediately and it be a page turner from the get go.

I also, like to get into a book, without knowing much at all about the author. In this case we are talking about Shirley Jackson whom it turns out is one of the great authors of American Literature, and I was ignorant of this fact, in a way this was a blessing in and of itself. Because it kept the playing field of expectations level and solid, without any bias.

So when I began reading this book the writing itself was tight and good. I love to read things fiction wise that are written in the past decades and centuries, because it causes you, or maybe even more so... coerces you to have a different feel and perception of things. I wanted so bad for this book to seriously be about a cut and dry haunting, ghosts and poltergeists if you will. While, this is on the surface what the book is about, the real horror and terribly depressing undercurrents slipped right past me in the slipstream. I don't even know if this was what Shirley Jackson was going for at all.

I mean I was over eighty percent into the story, and I was starting to really get angry because the build-up that I was expecting was so subtle and I was so oblivious to the distractions that I started to think that the book was lackluster for me.

Caveat: Spoiler Alert (But I will try not to be), you decide to read my dear friends.

The characters are built-up and depicted in a formal, and classy manner but they still provide some gritty intimate details without completely tarnishing their personalities in my opinion, perhaps because of when Shirley Jackson wrote this story in the fifties. We have Eleanor and Theodora, who at first may not seem to be the cornerstone of the story itself, until the very end. It seems like the "Doctor" himself, is at the center of the plot and the story.

There was such heady and complex interactive dialogue in the relationship between Theodora and Eleanor that at one point I was becoming entranced by it all, never being aware enough of what was lurking and probing at the periphery of my consciousness. At some other points, it seems like although the writing is top-notch, that the chronology of the story telling is rather herky-jerky and disjointed as it goes along, and you are left wondering if you are not paying attention enough to details. Now, I think I know better (but I could be completely remiss in this point), just maybe this was purposeful and quite flawlessly executed by the author herself for "effect" if you will.

Is she laughing at me? Eleanor wondered; has she decided that I am not fit to stay? “I don‟t want to go,” she said, and Theodora looked at her again quickly and then away, and touched Eleanor‟s toes softly. “The polish is dry,” she said. “I‟m an idiot. Just something frightened me for a minute.” She stood up and stretched. “Let‟s go look for the others,” she said. p73

It literally took me 3 days or so for the actual "horror" of this story to sink-in for me. After processing everything the story was about, it leaves me feeling actually very scared and sick to my stomach. The fact is the after the mind wanders, no matter how far our souls wander, they will finally be called home.

This story calls upon just how bad social awkwardness can be, the stark loneliness leaves us so forlorn, how if left unchecked suicidal ideation can and often does end up winning. That perhaps for some unfortunate souls no matter how hard they strive for some sense of social connections and stability, it still ends with a resounding sense of futility and failure.

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”p.99

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

“I am always afraid of being alone,” Eleanor said, and wondered, Am I talking like this? Am I saying something I will regret bitterly tomorrow? Am I making more guilt for myself? “Those letters spelled out my name, and none of you know what that feels like—it‟s so familiar .” And she gestured to them, almost in appeal. “Try to see ,” she said. “It‟s my own dear name, and it belongs to me, and something is using it and writing it and calling me with it and my own name...” She stopped and said, looking from one of them to another, even down onto Theodora‟s face looking up at her, “Look. There‟s only one of me, and it‟s all I‟ve got. I hate seeing myself dissolve and slip and separate so that I‟m living in one half, my mind, and I see the other half of me helpless and frantic and driven and I can‟t stop it, but I know I‟m not really going to be hurt and yet time is so long and even a second goes on and on and I could stand any of it if I could only surrender—“p.100

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Perhaps you are more receptive psychically than you realize, although”—and she turned away indifferently—“how you could be, a week in this house and not picking up the simplest message from beyond...That fire wants stirring.”

“Nell Donn's‟t want messages from beyond,” Theodora said comfortingly, moving to take Eleanor‟s cold hand in hers. “Nell wants her warm bed and a little sleep.”

Peace, Eleanor thought concretely; what I want in all this world is peace, a quiet spot to lie and think, a quiet spot up among the flowers where I can dream and tell myself sweet stories.p.121

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

I have broken the spell of Hill House and somehow come inside. I am home, she thought, and stopped in wonder at the thought. I am home, I am home, she thought; now to climb.p.145

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

She might have cried if she could have thought of any way of telling them why; instead, she smiled brokenly up at the house, looking at her own window, at the amused, certain face of the house, watching her quietly. The house was waiting now, she thought, and it was waiting for her; no one else could satisfy it. “The house wants me to stay,” she told the doctor, and he stared at her. He was standing very stiff and with great dignity, as though he expected her to choose him instead of the house, as though, having brought her here, he thought that by unwinding his directions he could send her back again. His back was squarely turned to the house, and, looking at him honestly, she said, “I‟m sorry. I‟m terribly sorry, really.” p.150-151

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

“It‟s the only time anything‟s ever happened to me. I liked it.”p.151

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

My bleak heart beats steady

Many times the ghosts haunt the insides of the Universe's greatest machine... The mind.

“that what people have been assuming were supernatural manifestations were really only the result of a slight loss of balance in the people who live here? The inner ear,” he told Theodora wisely. - p.66

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

One cannot even say that the ghost attacks the mind, because the mind, the conscious, thinking mind, is invulnerable; in all our conscious minds, as we sit here talking, there is not one iota of belief in ghosts. Not one of us, even after last night, can say the word „ghost‟ without a little involuntary smile. No, the menace of the supernatural is that it attacks where modern minds are weakest, where we have abandoned our protective armor of superstition and have no substitute defense. Not one of us thinks rationally that what ran through the garden last night was a ghost, and what knocked on the door was a ghost; and yet there was certainly something going on in Hill House last night, and the mind‟s instinctive refuge—self-doubt—is eliminated. We cannot say, „It was my imagination,‟ because three other people were there too.” p.87

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

“Can you read it?” Luke asked softly, and the doctor, moving his flashlight, read slowly: HELP ELEANOR COME HOME.p.90

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Eleanor thought; if Eleanor is going to be the outsider, she is going to be it all alone. She reached out and patted Theodora‟s head and said, “Thanks. I guess I was kind of shaky for a minute.” “I wondered if you two were going to come to blows,” Luke said, “until I realized what Theodora was doing.” Smiling down into Theodora‟s bright, happy eyes, Eleanor thought, But that isn‟t what Theodora was doing at all. p.93

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

All of them stood in silence for a moment and looked at HELP ELEANOR COME HOME ELEANOR written in shaky red letters on the wallpaper over Theodora‟s bed.p.97

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Maybe I can‟t take it seriously,” she said, “after the sight of Theo screaming over her poor clothes and accusing me of writing my name all over her wall. Maybe I‟m getting used to her blaming me for everything.”p.98

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Even after finishing the book I am left to wonder if maybe it was not so much a "psychological" thriller, but that Nell was in the end the Ghost or wandering Soul of sorts, she had no true sense of a grounded place to call home, or perhaps she was haunted by the House and the House by her. Maybe I am supposed to make up my own mind?

To me in the end, "Hill House" reminded me of the old Alfred Hitchcock paperback books I would browse and peruse back in the early and mid seventies. There is a large bleed over into the mystery genre if you ask me, but perhaps I am incorrect in looking at it this way, that this book is more a psychological thriller or horror as I have seen it said before.

I know of some of Jackson's other pieces like the "Lottery" but I have no idea if her other writings are strictly of the Horror genre. I know or have an idea based on some cursory research and reading that Shirley Jackson was herself surely a literary genius.

Well, now... After scraping the InturTubes I just found out that Shirley Jackson was an addict, and was really into taking tranquilizers and also downing amphetamines. She also had some serious anxiety issues, sadly and gladly I know intimately what life is all about on both sides of this coin.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

I am going to have to read this biography for sure later this fall. Biographies have always fascinated me, especially if they are sincere, respectful and as transparently delivered as humanly possible without diminishing any of that respect. But I have to maintain my focus and reading discipline or I will spread myself to thin.

This book for me at least was so not what I expected, but in the end it taught me some serious lessons.

Prado Los Disparates

What is also a bonus, is that just because you are reading something that is non-fiction in nature, does not mean you won't learn anything new when it comes to factual subjects as well. In the story there is mention of both Francisco Goya and Jonathan Foxe both of whom are at least what I would call dark and foreboding historical figures that provided humanity with some disturbing imagery based upon their outlooks on life.

Foxe

The awesome part about reading in general is that it will always help us to readily expand our vocabularies every single time, we read a book, so here we have two words do just that.

“The sun is over the yardarm,” the doctor said happily.p.107

Which means the outer extremity of a ship's yard. It is a phrase that refers to the time of day that it is permissible to begin drinking. The favorite time of the day for alcoholics...

“Not counting,” said Theodora, “milksops.”p.136

A milksop is a person that is indecisive and lacks courage, the word is a noun.

I was curious to see if I could find any really good videos regarding Shirley Jackson as a writer, which did not pan out to well, but again it was a very quick scrape of youtube. I did however come across this young lady's review of the Haunting of Hill House and I watch the entire video just so I could get a good contrast with what I had written and expressed. Please my dear readers take a gander and you yourselves be the judge.

Always remember... "Journeys end in lovers meeting"


blog comments powered by Disqus