Monday Muse: Shirley Jackson and facing the fear

April 4, 2011

I am still very much thinking about unreliability and fear, both within the writing, and as part of the process. If Stephen King is my idol, Shirley Jackson is a very close second, with her ability to merge style and tension so uniquely, and with such singular success.

There is the finest of lines between writing that is so elevated it inspires, and writing so exquisite it reinforces my own artistic insecurities. Jackson teeters heavily toward the latter, but there’s no one else out there quite like her, so I forbear.

“I delight in what I fear,” she has said, and I can relate. Yes.

And in The Haunting of Hill House:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”

Yes. That.


“So long as you write it away regularly nothing can really hurt you.”

And yes: that, too. Yes.


But ultimately, it is this passage that never fails to at once fill me –

with delight, terror, and despair:


“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.

I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance.

I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.

I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise.

I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom.

Everyone else in our family is dead.


You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine.

Is it still in use?  you are wondering; has it been cleaned?


You may very well ask;

was it thoroughly washed?”


We Have Always Lived in the Castle


That, that, that.

I really don’t think I can do anything like that. Not on my wildest, most vivid days.

But that.

Well, that makes me want to try, nonetheless.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s