Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Hoot

Shirley Jackson is a favorite of mine. She writes prose worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is funnier than Evelyn Waugh, and is often as creepy and mysterious as M.R. James. These effects occur on the same page with regularity; the alternation of hilarious and frightening bits heightens the effect of each. Reading The Sundial in the tub this morning I became uncomfortably aware of the small creaky noises every house makes, and then I'd laugh loudly at some ridiculousness perpetrated by Aunt Fanny, only to grow steadily uncomfortable anew as my laughter echoed away down the corridor.

A drawing-room satire of 1950s American Victorians beset by a vision of Armaggedon, The Sundial lampoons Spiritualism, eschatological enthusiasts, class conscious blue-bloods, erotically surpressed necromaniacs, and the Cold War. And it's downright chilling to boot. Shirley Jackson, a true sardonic visionary!