I’m listening to the audio book of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson currently. It’s a great story and I plan to pick up the novel at the library soon. I got a little lost in the house while the doctor was describing how everything was built during his tour. (He did this so the group could avoid getting lost, ironically, and learn each floor’s layout.) Hill House was built in concentric circles with the inner rooms having no windows or doors. Furthermore, everything was built slightly angled, about 15 degrees off–on purpose. The mansion was intended to catch you off guard, it seems, to perhaps idly trap you inside its interiors. It disoriented your senses, disturbed your balance.
I tilted my head at the windows and then at the stairwell, trying to catch just how everything was tilted. I couldn’t quite grasp it and I thought it was silly and dubious to waste a contractor’s time with such frivolity. A set of doors had closed earlier in the dining room and we were seeing if footsteps on the angled floors caused the doors to shut on their own. I sense these details are themes that will come back around in the closing pages. Ms. Jackson is a sharp writer and she’s leaving her bread crumbs in the pages, beguiling. I scurry along, following the group as we leave doors open behind us, turning our heads to check them before crossing into an adjoining hallway. One particularly heavy door has a stool put before it to make sure it stayed open. We’ll see if they’re closed or open when we return.
Horror is fine, it seems, if we can control it or try to make sense of it. When Halloween comes and goes, the decorations and ghost stories seem comical afterwards, don’t they? Horror movies can be paused; masks taken off and put into storage, easily forgotten about until next year. But what about real horror? What about people getting shot in a bar, running around defenseless in smoke curtains created by a stalking predator? What about Jews worshiping in their synagogue and being slaughtered? What about children and teenagers, coming to class and not leaving alive?
Our country averts its eyes back towards the rotting Jack-O-Lanterns. They stare back, gaping at our stupidity.
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