Halloween Reading: Shirley Jackson’s “Hangsaman”

Shirley Jackson seems to need regular rediscovery. The indeed-overexposed “The Lottery” does her way more harm than good by now. I dumped her in the “gimmick writer” pile until Stephen King’s Danse Macabre straightened me out and I read The Haunting of Hill House, The Sundial (the most minor) and We Have Always Lived in a Castle (the most fascinating and unusual).

But it wasn’t until just a few years ago I found out about Hangsaman (not from this piece, though it does a decent job of outlining the book.) Doesn’t hurt that the book’s inspiration is itself eerie and creepy as hell. (Though I think the kid who vanishes from the truck is the most flat-out bizarre event.)

Like last year’s selection, this is a novel that unnerves you through tone and atmosphere and peculiar tiny details. Again, there’s no big burst of violence or gore or the supernatural, but you’ll be plenty disturbed by the end and never forget this book that you can’t quite classify. Do not read if you are feeling lonely.

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