“The Haunting of Hill House”, Shirley Jackson

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.

Admittedly when you’re talking about picking great quotes, I feel that this is low-hanging fruit. But it is a great quote, and I’m including it.

That is the opening to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, one of the great haunted house novels. It was published 58 years ago, in ’59. Shirley Jackson wrote 6 novels and well over a hundred stories. Odds are good that people in the North American school system at least were exposed to “The Lottery”, but if you’ve missed it, I recommend picking up “The Summer People“.

(I’m not explicitly picking opening quotes, by the way; I am just trending in a direction that avoids spoilers, and since a lot of the great quotes that resonate with me are beginnings or endings–which is part of why I’m taking Cat Rambo’s class on same this month–I’m mostly going to lean heavily towards beginnings.)

I didn’t use to believe that the past could reach cold hands out towards the living…

Funnily enough, I used this for a post title nearly two years ago, too.  It’s a line from Stephen King’s Christine, which I have been thinking about rereading lately.

Anyway.  I’ve been thinking about Kyle Murchison Booth, a character from an interlinked series of stories written by Sarah Monette (many of which were collected in The Bone Key.  I love the stories very much–they remind me of MR James–and I am just quietly amused that two fairly significant things didn’t occur to me on the first read-through.

(This may be a side-effect of going through them with great enthusiasm, and therefore great speed.)

First, the past is never kind to Booth (I think he may have actually been called Cousin Kyle in one of the stories, and I still can’t imagine doing it; he is Booth, to me, or Kyle Murchison Booth, but not Kyle).  No-one who knew him from before, or who knew of him from before, ever seeks him out to do him good.  There is Radcliffe, who is specifically a break with the patterns of the past, and did not go looking for Booth, and is very nearly still cruel to him anyway.

Second–and this is one the light of my life pointed out to me–the Samuel Mather Parrington Museum is not a safe place.  It is haunted.  But it is safe from other haunts.  They may chase Booth, and they may press against the outside of his window, and they may wait for him at the bottom of its stairs… but they do not go into the Parrington.

Whatever walks there, walks alone.

Oddly awake.

Yesterday I was up until four in the morning. And then I was up and functional by eight. Somehow I’m still not tired. Admittedly there was a nap in there, but…

One of the people I write with a fair bit of the time is doing NaNoWriMo. It’s rough going so far (mind, that doesn’t mean much yet), but she’s doing it. I, meanwhile, have written the hundred words of fiction in trip fragments this week.

I mean, it’s just been Hallowe’en; I practically feel guilty about not trying. It’s the time of year for (proper Lovecraft) ghouls and curiously meaningful scratches and shapes standing in the dark in the still of your room and just watching you.

You think.

You can’t see their eyes, after all.

(Oh yes, this is absolutely going to help me get to sleep. Because I needed a chaser after reading a third of the way through the House of Fear anthology. It’s a nice mix; part actual ghosts and part haunted houses (which are subtly different, but I fear I repeat myself), with a side order of the weird.)

Beginning to get sleepy, at least.  The nice thing about the phone is that I can post in my room and don’t get distracted by the joys of the internet or the horror of the Sierra Madre. Much easier to lie down and go to sleep if you don’t need to tear yourself away from a computer motor.

(That’s the Sierra Madre from Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money. Which is a quite well-done little horror story set in a haunted house… one which both corrupts its victims and is inhabited by ghosts, now that I think of it.)

Tomorrow I’ll try and get my books sorted, I suppose. And maybe I’ll hear back about work. The estimated start date just keeps creeping forward; at this point I’d be surprised if anything happened before Monday.

The nature of the beast.

Yep, more American Horror Story; thoughts which mostly revolve around the second episode, although bits of the third might creep in.  Watched them back to back.

I really think I should just give up on defining Constance and Addy.  I don’t think they’ve died–the interactions with others and the very prosaic baking scene kind of killed that theory for me–but the way Constance especially shows up inside the house at the oddest moments is seriously uncanny.  And given the end of the “Home Invasion” episode and her discussion with Tate and Moira, she pretty clearly knows what they are and is dealing with it jest fahn, as George Stark would say in a rather heavy Southern accent.

(Constance was the source of one of two “oh right, that’s what this reminds me of” moments this episode, too.  Blanche.  She’s so very much Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire.)  And I think that’s about as far as I can get without spoilers, so ahoy the cut. Continue reading “The nature of the beast.”

Selective perception.

Rewatched the first episode of American Horror Story as part of highly delicate TV negotiations (to wit, John’s desire to see the end of the season of The Shield is stronger than my desire to watch the next episode (now next two episodes) of AHS[1], and I’m not watching it when I have the TV alone because he’s interested in it. Continue reading “Selective perception.”

I didn’t use to believe that the past could reach cold hands out towards the living…

Dammit.  Thoughts are all over the place, and I need to be up in five hours.  Some very sketchy jottings on ghosts as handled in American Horror Story. Spoilers follow. Continue reading “I didn’t use to believe that the past could reach cold hands out towards the living…”