“The Haunting of Hill House” (Post 2/2)

Hill House 02

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[24] There are two previous deaths in the driveway of Hill House:

“The last person who tried to leave Hill House in darkness – it was eighteen years ago, I grant you – was killed at the turn of the driveway, where his horse bolted and crushed him against the big tree.”

(p.67)

 

“Hugh Crain’s young wife died (…) when the carriage bringing her here overturned in the driveway.”

(p.75)

[25] Reference:

“You will recall,” the doctor began, “the houses described in Leviticus as ‘leprous,’ tsaraas.

(p.70)

 

Tzaraath describes disfigurative conditions of the skin, hair of the beard and head, clothing made of linen or wool, or stones of homes located in the land of Israel. All variations are mainly referred to in chapters 13-14 of Leviticus.

[26]

“People have to live and die somewhere, after all, and a house can hardly stand for eighty years without seeing some of its inhabitants die within its walls.”

(p.78) Continue reading

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“The Haunting of Hill House” (Post 1/2)

Hill House 01

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Shirley Jackson’s 1959 classic; the haunted house tale to top all haunted house tales. I read my Penguin Books paperback.

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 5 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: At least 5. 

Seen the Movies: Shamefully, no on Robert Wise’s 1963 version but yes on Jan de Bonts awful 1999 version (though, I’ve got to say Zeta-Jones as Theodora and Lili Taylor as Eleanor was the right instinct with casting. Everything else about the movie fails).

And side note: Neither version of The House on Haunted Hill has anything to do with Jackson’s book. The first film version was released in February 1959, which makes me think Jackson and the creators of the film independently came up with very similar titles…?

The Plot:

A small group, gathered by Dr. Montague, sets out to study the supposedly haunted Hill House.

The Haunting of Hill House is an incredible piece of work. It’s hard to write about without entering pretentious literature-class-discussions but don’t let that keep you away. This is an entertaining book above all, one you can get through in a couple of sittings. Dive as deep as you want into interpretations and symbolism or read it for what it presents on the surface: a fantastic horror story.

The book is almost sixty years old but still reads extremely well. Jackson’s language feels fresh and the humor and jealousies between the characters have hardly aged. There’s sexual tension and subtext flying all over the place and the scenes of terror will unsettle the hell out of you if you’re reading it alone at night. Continue reading

“The Collector” (Post 4/4)

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[77] Reference:

You’re like Sheraton joinery. You won’t fall apart.

(p.185)

 

Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) was a furniture designer, one of the “big three” English furniture makers of the 18th century, along with Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite. Sheraton gave his name to a style of furniture characterized by a feminine refinement of late Georgian styles.

[78] Reference:

He was scraping the glue away from a broken Chinese blue-and-white bowl he’d bought in the Portobello Road, and repaired, two fiendishly excited horsemen chasing a timid little fallow-deer.

(p.186)

 

Portobello Road is a street in the Notting Hill district in west London. On Saturdays it is home to Portobello Road Market, one of London’s most notable street markets, known for its second-hand clothes and antiques.

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“The Collector” (Post 3/4)

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[51]

What I write isn’t natural. It’s like two people trying to keep up a conversation.

It’s the very opposite of drawing. You draw a line and you know at once whether it’s a good or a bad line. But you write a line and it seems true and then you read it again later.

(p.136)

[52] Miranda admits to her faults and is honest about what she is thinking. And since this is a journal to herself, to keep herself sane, I don’t hold things against her that I might hold against a first-person narrator of a novel.

I’m so superior to him. I know this sounds wickedly conceited. But I am. And so it’s Ladymont and Boadicaea and noblesse oblige all over again. I feel I’ve got to show him how decent human beings live and behave.

(p.137)

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“The Collector” (Post 1/4)

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John Fowles’ first published novel, released in 1963 (but written after The Magus). I read my 1997 Back Bay Books paperback edition.

5 out of 5 stars. 

Times Read: 4

Seen the Movie: No (and I don’t think I want to…)  

The Plot:

Working-class Frederick Clegg, suddenly wealthy, buys a secluded house and kidnaps a college student, naively expecting love to follow. She resists her captivity and captor.

The Collector is marketed as “the first modern psychological thriller” and I initially read it expecting a proto-Silence of the Lambs. Instead, I found a deeply moving, disturbing literary work that turned me into a Fowles fan.

Fowles shows us the same events twice – first from Clegg’s perspective, then from Miranda’s journal. We see the fears, hopes, and justifications of each side but always, always, Clegg is the villain. Despite this, The Collector is notorious for being a favorite of serial killers.

These murderers must have ignored everything after the first forty pages because the greatest strength of The Collector is in humanizing the victim. I love Miranda. She is not saintly or exceptional – she is a young person trying to do her best. Fowles successfully conveys the mindset of a twenty-year-old female college student, nailing so many insecurities, emotions, and questions of that age. The tragedy of Miranda is seeing someone with so much potential and desire to grow be snuffed out. She knows she has much to learn and wants to learn it.

If what someone gets out of The Collector is, “I want to build a torture room and kidnap a girl,” then they’ve totally missed the point. Clegg is one of the vilest figures in literature. This book deserves to be more than a footnote to real-life horrors. Continue reading