Fearfully huddled together for the indefinable comfort of human contact in the middle of the haunted BookPeople coffee shop, the Nightmare Factory Book Club listened, quivering mostly with terror but a little from the indefinable thrill of human contact, as something powerful knocked over the bookshelves. The candelabras on the tables flickered and blew out one by one. By the time they were relit, everyone in the club was holding a copy of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and the artwork on the walls of the cafe had been replaced with the eerie scrawl “DISCUSS AT 8:00 P.M. ON TUESDAY MARCH 17th”. Also, the barista was dead. This book club was being haunted but good.
Shirley Jackson was among the greatest literary minds of the twentieth century, and her influence will be felt in the world of horror for the rest of eternity. Her prose is brave and nuanced, and her characters are simultaneously high-status and down-to-Earth. It is evident from her fiction that she took great pleasure in life, literature, and twisting the serrated knife of horror her audience’s guts. The Haunting of Hill House is a phantasmagoric, terrifying, and genuinely funny psychic adventure, and, like the eponymous house, it quickly turns the reader’s imagination against itself. Made rich and all the more evocative by its subtlety, this short novel is the archetypical haunted house story, to which all others merely allude. It’s hard to determine exactly what unique concept lives in The Haunting of Hill House that fills the pages with such dread, paranoia, and magic, but, whatever walks there, walks there alone.
The Nightmare Factory Book Club meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 8:00 p.m. in the cobwebbed cafe at BookPeople to discuss horror fiction and the little things in life that make us scream. Park your broom this Tuesday and gather around the cauldron to help us cook up a hearty conversation over The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. As always with the Nightmare Factory Book Club, what doesn’t kill you will drive you slowly insane and then kill you.
– Steve(n) W.