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From My Bookshelf: Shirley Jackson

When thinking about what books and authors I wanted to read this fall and, more specifically, in October, Shirley Jackson came to mind. I read both We Have Always Lived in the Castle and her short story collection Dark Tales for the first time in 2018, and it’s beyond time for me to read (and hopefully fall in love with) Shirley Jackson’s other books. And because I do hope to one day own all of Shirley Jackson’s novels and collections, I decided to purchase the books I want to read rather than borrow them from the library.

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I do collect Penguin Classics editions, so that was sort of an obvious choice for me when looking at which copies to buy. One of these three, however, is a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition rather than the standard Penguin Classics edition because, well, I explain below.

The Road Through the Wall
Foreward by Ruth Franklin

  • Shirley Jackson’s first novel
  • Originally published in 1948 by Farrar, Straus
  • Penguin Classics edition, 2013

Welcome to Pepper Street. It’s a really nice, safe California neighborhood. The houses are tidy and the lawns are neatly mowed. Of course, the country club is close by. And lots of pleasant folks live here—the Merriams, the Fieldings, the Robertses, the Ransom-Joneses, and the Desmonds, just to name a few. The only problem is they knocked down the wall at the end of the street to make way for a road to a new housing development. Now that’s not good—not with summer vacation starting and the kids all running around. It’s just not good at all.

In the chilling debut novel that launched her heralded career, Shirley Jackson satirically explores what happens when a smug suburban neighborhood is breached by awful, unavoidable truths.

Foreward by Francine Prose

  • Shirley Jackson’s second novel
  • Originally published in 1951 by Farrar, Straus and Young
  • Penguin Classics edition, 2013

Seventeen-year-old Natalie Waite longs to escape home for college. Her father is a domineering and egotistical writer who keeps a tight rein over Natalie and her long-suffering mother. When Natalie finally does get away, however, college life doesn’t bring the happiness she expected. She becomes infatuated with a married professor and feels lost and overwhelmed. Little by little, Natalie is no longer certain of anything—even where reality ends and her dark imaginings begin.

Chilling and suspenseful, Hangsaman is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of a Bennington College sophomore in 1946.

The Haunting of Hill House
Introduction by Laura Miller

  • Shirley Jackson’s fifth novel
  • Originally published in 1959 by Viking
  • Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2016
    • commemorates Shirley Jackson’s centennial birthday

Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House. Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Originally published in 1959, The Haunting of Hill House remains “widely regarded as the greatest haunted-house story ever written” (The Wall Street Journal). This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Shirley Jackson’s Gothic masterpiece, with original cover art by Aron Wiesenfeld and an introduction by Laura Miller, commemorates the centennial of Jackson’s birth and the abiding terror of her greatest creation.

No, I have not yet watched the Netflix adaptation because I have not read the book; this month (finger’s crossed) will be the month I do both. I do have some comments about the edition, because of a petty and yet still rational (to me) reason as to why I refuse to purchase the Penguin Classics (standard) edition. Why, oh why, is it only being printed with the detestable, unremovable, Netflix stamp? I can’t seem to find a version of the Penguin Classics edition without it, and it has been driving me berserk. This is not to say that I don’t love the edition I purchased and am featuring this post, because I do (the font, the art, the French flaps; although I could do without the deckled edges). I just want a Penguin Classics edition to match the others that I have; if you have intel or a lead on how I can get a copy without the stamp, please let me know! Okay, now that I’ve whined about that out loud, I feel a little better.

Are you a fan of Shirley Jackson’s novels and/or short stories? Have you read any of these books? I would love to hear from you in a comment below.


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