The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

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Sunday, Jun 6, 2010

Sometimes, as a book reviewer, it's best to just get out of the way as quickly as possible. Such is the case with this review of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, one of the great ghost novels in the English language.

I want to quote from the book because the opening is, in my opinion, one of the finest passages in the history of supernatural fiction. Before I do, I'll just say this: Shirley Jackson was a brilliant writer and conceptualist, reading any of her books is like being hypnotized, and furthermore, she stands up to multiple readings.

Now on to that opening paragraph, which never fails to elicit my extreme admiration:

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. 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."

Magnificent.

Written by John Mark E.