Freaky Foundations

Cheryl in Brentwood reports:

Picture a quaint New England college town, a Greek revival house nestled behind a hedgerow on a tree-lined street. The woman of the house dutifully raising her children, seeing her husband off to work, cooking dinner night after night for her family and friends. While working on her household chores, what do you think a woman like this is thinking of? Gardening or baking cookies… Perhaps, or maybe she thinks of poisoning the sugar bowl and stoning people to death. If you’re like Shirley Jackson, that’s exactly what you think of.

Best known for her short story The Lottery and the novel The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson’s writing was inspired by her surroundings. Colonial gothic architecture and the eccentricities and traditions of regional families are repeated themes in her work. We Have Always Lived in the Castle brought to mind images so reminiscent of my northeastern childhood home that I could swear I knew the town and characters. Often Jackson would sketch out places and buildings as a visual starting point before writing a single word.

What is so wonderful about Jackson’s work is that she introduces you to what appears to be ordinary, lures you in, then reveals an utterly dark side, layer by layer, with a matter-of-factness that is characteristically New England. Had Shirley Jackson lived anywhere else, her stories would not have been the same. She always lived in the castle, and because her stories are so timeless, she always will.

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