Saturday, August 30, 2008

Books I've Been Reading For School: We Have Always LIved in the Castle

The last few weeks have been a bit hectic, reading and writing for school while juggling other projects and the day job. The flip side is that I'm getting through some interesting books, some I should have read a long time ago, I know.

It's schoolwork that's not too bad, eh. I may get beaten up on my first packet, but time will tell. A lot of us first semester folk have been sweating a bit until we get the hang of things.

One of the works I've had to annotate so far is We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I wrote--in a gig Charles turned me on to--a Masterplots article about The Haunting of Hill House ages ago, but I'd never checked out this other great and eerie tale from Shirley Jackson. The gist of the analysis I wrote for school focused on the fact that Jackson's technique of distancing the reader actually engaged me more.

An unreliable narrator
The novel is narrated by Merricat Blackwood, and she doesn't tell all. She hints at facts in some cases. In others she reports events and lets dialog from other characters reveal things that have come before in the recent Blackwood family history. She, her sister and her uncle are the only family members left alive after arscenic poisonings. Why? Well, she'll get to that eventually.

Merricat frequently raises questions then waits a long time to answer. To me that made even mundane events take on much more weight. I was leaning into the book to try and figure things out. It's a far from passive reading experience.

Reliable chills
By the story's end it's posible to interpret all including the things Merricat doesn't say, and to me that made it all exceptionally chilling, scarier on an emotional level that was more affecting than The Haunting of Hill House.

If you haven't, you should.

I love the cover from the Popular Library edition which I've included here. It's the edition I own, and it features a painting, obviously of Merricat that's fabulously rich in meaning.


Charles Gramlich said...

I did really enjoy her "Castle," but I still enjoyed Hill House more. It may have been the mood I was in when I read the two. Jackson was a master at creating atmosphere, though.

Lana Gramlich said...

Cool cover, as you say. I'll have to see about checking the book out at some point. Reading fiction is no longer my strong point, unfortunately.

Steve Malley said...

Just thinking about 'Castle' gave me the chills. I *loved* that book!

Erik Donald France said...

Jackson was/is awesome, eh?

I do also like the cover, too. Very cool and eerie.

Anonymous said...

I like your Obama button, and your writing style.

Shauna Roberts said...

I not only liked your Obama button, I copied it to post on my blog.

Sidney said...

Thanks for the thoughts everyone. I'll share some more books as I get a chance.

Glad you guys liked the button. There's social networking and more available on the Obama site.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I don't know if the same can be said elsewhere, Sid, but up here I've always found the works of Shirley Jackson to be terribly overlooked. I can find her books in used bookstores, so thats what I'm getting at, too; even outside of college, no one seems to be aware of her. Thanks for the post.

Miladysa said...

Oh! I have to read this :-D

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