The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, was first published in 1959.
The first sentence is: “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.”
Dr. John Montague is a doctor of philosophy, with a degree in anthropology. He feels that his true vocation is that of an investigator of “supernatural manifestations”. He has gone to considerable expense to rent Hill House for three months, because Hill House is supposedly haunted. Dr. Montague hopes to recoup his experiences with a paper he will publish on his findings while living there.
He sends out twelve letters to carefully chosen people who might wish to stay with him in Hill House and help him observe unusual occurrences. Those twelve letters receive four replies. To those four, he sends detailed instructions, with the time, location, and so forth. Of those four, two people arrive at Hill House: Eleanor and Theodora.
Eleanor Vance is 32-years-old. She’d spent the past eleven years caring for her invalid mother. This is partly why she has no friends. She was chosen by Dr. Montague because when she was 12-years-old, following the death of her father, stones fell from the sky for three days.
For Eleanor, a three-month stay in Hill House is her chance to be free, to assert herself, and to become her own person.
Theodora (who doesn’t use a last name) signs her artwork “Theo”. She’s an outgoing, flamboyant, free spirit – the opposite of Eleanor. She was chosen by Dr. Montague because of her demonstrated psychic ability.
Luke Sanderson is a petty thief. His aunt owns Hill House. Someday, Luke will inherit Hill House, but didn’t think he’d ever live there. He’ll be staying at Hill House only because his aunt had insisted that, because of the nature of Dr. Montague’s proposed work, a legal clause be added to the rental agreement stating that a Sanderson family member be on the property while Dr. Montague is there.
The caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, refuse to stay in Hill House after dark.
Hill House is an eighty-year-old Victorian mansion build among hills. It is overly large, with an over-abundance of towers, turrets, and Gothic decorations. It is a maze of hallways and rooms-within-rooms. It was built in ways that purposely disorient its occupants.
The Haunting of Hill House is a classic haunted house story. Four people stay in a creepy, dark, old mansion with a disreputable history. Things go bump in the night.
(“God God – whose hand was I holding?” is one seriously creepy line.)
It’s a character-driven novel. The book spends a long time introducing the characters – especially Eleanor – before anything scary occurs. Dr. Montague, Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke all become instant friends, and treat their visit like some elaborate cocktail party. Mrs. Dudley provides comic relief for everyone except herself, with her strict adherence to the food schedule.
Soon into the story, it becomes clear that The Haunting of Hill House is Eleanor’s story, more than anyone else’s. She and Theodora become great friends (and maybe more? This was 1959, and I suspect there’s some coded language in the novel). With Theodora, Eleanor finds the first real friend she’s ever had, and wants to continue the friendship beyond their stay at Hill House. Theodora loves Eleanor, but sees their friendship as nothing more than a fling.
I absolutely loved this book. It has a little bit of everything. It’s creepy and scary and funny and touching, and it all blends in well. It’s wonderfully written. I loved the story, and I loved Shirley Jackson’s style of telling it.
Why I chose this book:
Before I found a book with alliteration in the title, I had to learn what “alliteration” means. I found the definition, but it seemed so simple that I wasn’t entirely sure if I understood it fully. With that out of the way, I did an internet search for “book with alliteration in the title”, and found lists containing books like Doctor Dolittle, Black Beauty, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I stopped searching when I found The Haunting of Hill House, because it was the first book title I came across with a triple alliteration (that’s not actually a term, I later learned). Plus, it was by Shirley Jackson. I’d read Jackson’s The Lottery and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and loved them both, so I welcomed the chance to read something else by her.
A couple of coworkers were discussing the Weeping Angels this morning. I admitted that I knew of the Weeping Angels, I didn’t really know who they were. I have very tolerant coworkers. They explained to me that “Blink” is one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever.
On my next break, I went to the Seattle Public Library web site and put a hold on the third season of Doctor Who. We’re number 6 on 4 copies. Phillip and I have agreed in the past that we really should know more about Doctor Who, and what it’s all about. Maybe this will be our start.
Meanwhile, I’m hold number 751 on 100 copies of Season Seven of Game of Thrones. I’ll be watching that alone, unless Phillip suddenly decides to watch the first six seasons.
Meanwhile, Phillip and I have been re-watching episodes of Firefly.
Somehow, during this evening’s session, the chiropractor and I started discussing drag queens.
A coworker read my blog post from last Saturday – the one in which I contacted a chiropractor. This coworker gave me a glowing recommendation for a chiropractor in my neighborhood. It was the chiropractor I’d contacted.
I hadn’t heard back from them yesterday, so I stopped into the chiropractor’s office on my way home from work. The office is just three blocks from Capitol Hill Station, and a nice, easy walk. Getting there for any future after-work appointments is going to be simple.
The receptionist was friendly, understanding, knowledgeable, and helpful. He offered me a 4:45 appointment today. By adjusting my work schedule slightly, that worked out perfectly. I got a good vibe from the office. I’m glad I went there in person.
I spent about an hour with the chiropractor today. We talked, he did some tests, and he offered some recommendations. I felt we have a lot in common, and share a similar viewpoint regarding treatments and medication.
I have my second appointment tomorrow, after work.
I like Macklemore, the personality, more than I like his music. It’s not that I dislike Macklemore’s music – it’s just that it doesn’t speak to me or my life. So, today’s “Video Tuesday” might seem like a puzzling choice to those who know me.
I was going to post a link to the blog post from the day “Corner Store” was filmed. It would explain why I chose this video, but I couldn’t find the post. I eventually discovered that I had written the story on Facebook, but hadn’t written a blog post. I have no idea why I did it like that. WordPress is my medium for story telling, not Facebook.
Here’s what I posted to Facebook on December 12, 2017:
So we walked over to Summit Foods this evening, to buy some Diet Coke. There were several panel trucks, and one black VIP-style SUV, on the street. Someone was setting a catering tray on the corner. There were a lot of people standing around, including one fellow in “old man” makeup. We started to walk in, and a guy told us, in a friendly manner, that the store was closed. I asked what was going on. He said they were filming a commercial. We don’t think it was a commercial. (Is Macklemore filming a new video??)
It was actually Phillip who came up with the believable theory that Macklemore was filming a video. It was also Phillip who theorized that the fellow in obviously fake “old man” makeup who said “
Hey, fellas Evening, gentlemen” as he rushed past us, was Macklemore himself. (Edited)
Phillip later confirmed with the store owner that it was, indeed, a Macklemore video being filmed that evening. (The store owner, by the way, looks nothing like Macklemore in “old man” makeup.)
I was bouncing around YouTube last night, when Macklemore’s “Corner Store” video showed up as suggested for me. Phillip had been right about everything.
We like our corner store. The family that runs it is always friendly and helpful. It has a good selection of just about everything except fresh produce. It has a very good selection of micro brewery beers.
Phillip especially likes our corner store, because it is the only place in our neighborhood, including QFC and Rite Aid, that sells Caffeine Free Diet Coke.
My not-serious theory that night was that it really was a commercial – a commercial for Caffeine Free Diet Coke.
That night, after we were shooed away from Summit Foods, we walked over to Thomas Market and bought regular (caffeinated) Diet Coke. This is why Phillip says that Macklemore owes him a Caffeine Free Diet Coke.
So, in past and future blog posts, when I mention going over to the corner store, you will know what the place looks like.
As for the rest of the video, I don’t recognize the park or the alley, but I recognize the lights behind the security officers’ heads as the Rite Aid on the corner of Broadway and John. (The building was a movie theater before it was a drug store. The marquee was left in place for the preservation of history.)
Decades ago, the street I lived on was blocked off by a movie crew. As I walked home one evening, I saw Gene Hackman sitting on the stoop of an apartment building two buildings from mine. I learned, later, that it was the movie Twice in a Lifetime. I used to say that that was my only brush with celebrity. Now I know that Macklemore once said “
Hey, fellas Evening, gentlemen” to us.
(Edit: Phillip says he remembers the quote as “Evening, gentlemen”. I’ll trust his recollection. I was talking to the guy at the door, who was telling me they were filming a commercial, when the “old man” passed behind me, and in front of Phillip. I was more distracted than Phillip was.)
Today was Writers’ Group. I hadn’t written anything. Phillip had purposely not planned on anything that involved him needing our car, so I wouldn’t have to walk up the hill.
I got up this morning and took some painkillers. I sat on the couch and tried to finish reading a book. I realized that I was spending quite a lot of time staring at nothing in particular. The painkillers had kicked it. I decided it was best that I not drive a car.
I walked over to the library, dropped off the book I managed to finish, and caught a 10 bus up the hill. (So, I didn’t walk all the way up the hill, and I avoided the steepest part.)
Writers’ Group today was Barbara, Mariah, Russ, and me.
Russ has a friend, a self-published author, who’s been interested in joining the Group. The problem has been that Sundays don’t often work for him. We decided today that there’s really no reason we have to meet on the second Sunday of the month – it’s just a tradition left over from when Writers’ Group was a church activity – and there’s no reason we couldn’t meet on a Saturday sometimes. So Writers’ Group will meet on occasional Saturdays from now on.
I read my blog post about taking our car in for an emission test. I think it went over well.
I rode the 10 back down the hill. (Russ would have offered me a ride, he told me, but he’d already given the free seat in his pickup to Mariah.)
Mannen som gick upp i rök, by spouses Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, was first published in 1966. It was translated into English by Joan Tate as The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, in 1969. It was the second book in the “Martin Beck Mystery” series.
The first sentence is: “The room was small and shabby.”
The first chapter is amazing. It begins with detailed descriptions of a crime scene. The victim lies dead on the floor. Then it’s revealed that these are descriptions of photographs of a crime scene. The photographs are being examined by Inspector Martin Beck. He and the rest of the Stockholm Homicide Squad are discussing convicting the suspect on technical evidence. Martin Beck enters the interrogation room just as the suspect begins confessing to the crime. What seemed, at first, to be the beginning of a murder mystery is actually the conclusion of one. The first chapter ends on page 8 with Martin Beck leaving on his month-long vacation.
Martin Beck takes a ferry out to an island in the Stockholm Archipelago, where his wife and family have already started their vacation. Less than one day into his vacation, Martin Beck is called back into Stockholm, where Chief Inspector Hammar tells him to meet with a man at the Foreign Office.
The man at the Foreign Office tells Martin Beck that a journalist named Alf Matsson vanished ten days earlier, while on assignment in Budapest. The magazine that employed Alf Matsson doesn’t want an official investigation, in order to kept its exclusive rights to the story. The Foreign Office is afraid of the impact from a story about a Swedish journalist disappearing while in Hungry. Martin Beck is offered the assignment of working for the Foreign Office, just long enough to discreetly find Alf Matsson. Of course, he’d have to postpone his vacation.
Over the angry objections of his wife, Martin Beck cuts his vacation short and accepts the impossible task of finding a man who went up in smoke. He doesn’t care about the assignment, and he doesn’t care about Alf Matsson. Martin Beck accepted the assignment only because of his “policeman’s soul”.
The Man Who Went Up in Smoke is a good, old-fashioned mystery. While Martin Beck is in Budapest, undercover, claiming he was looking for a missing friend, it also felt a little like an international espionage thriller. It’s a story of detailed clues and observations.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I had no trouble jumping into the series, while not having read the previous book.
Why I chose this book:
I found this novel while I was doing an internet search for “Nordic noir”. I found a lot of choices, including The Man Who Went Up in Smoke. I’d never heard of Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, or Martin Beck. It was obvious that finding Nordic noir would be a lot easier than finding a book with two authors. This book was the first one I put on my “For Later” library self, for the 2018 Reading Challenge, and the search for Nordic noir continued.
Last night, I made the decision to start seeing a chiropractor. I know of one near where I work, but I wanted to establish care with one close to home. I was sure there must be some in my neighborhood, but I didn’t know where they would be.
I did a search on Google Maps, and found two chiropractors in my neighborhood. The first one shocked me. It was a place I’ve been walking past for years. I walk past it at least twice a week. Its sign has appeared in photographs I’ve taken of the neighborhood. I’ve seen it and not really seen it.
The location of that first office was better for me than the second one. Unfortunately, it’s open only on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday morning, and Thursday and Friday. I’d have to take a lot of sick leave from work if I started going there. The second one opens at 8:00 on Saturdays, and stays open late on weekday evenings.
I woke up this morning a little before 8:00. I took a quick shower (in case they could see me right away) and then called that second chiropractor. The phone rang and rang, and then a recording told me that they were closed for the three-day weekend, and would be open on Tuesday. I sent an online message, asking that they contact me, and then I went back to bed.
Meanwhile, we could hear trees being cut, somewhere down the street. It continued for most of the morning. We couldn’t see what was going on, but we both hoped it was tree limbs being cut back, and not trees being cut down. There are a lot of very old trees in our neighborhood.
We took a walk up to the library this afternoon. We walked past the tree work site. The workers had finished, and had left. No trees were missing.