What’s happening at the Library?
Published 3:58 pm Friday, December 16, 2022
By James Gardner
Clark County Public Library
One of the great things about working in a library is the many opportunities to discover a great read. There is a virtual smorgasbord of books that pass before my eyes. While the computer scans them, my brain might file some of them to my to-be-read list. Some people might complain that they are buried by the books they want to read. Picture a tower of books by your bedside just one errant sneeze or air conditioner gust away from collapse. Me? I don’t mind living a little dangerously, and being buried in an avalanche of books sounds like one of the nicer ways to go–the nicety of this expiration method, of course, depends on how many hardbacks are present. And if I didn’t work in a library, I wouldn’t have discovered an influential author who happens to have a birthday this month.
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I was familiar with the name Shirley Jackson, largely–and I am so reluctant to admit it–due to “The Haunting” (DVD Horror HAUN), a ‘90s special effect extravaganza based on Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” (The original story is in Shirley Jackson’s Novels and Stories in F Jack). This isn’t because the movie was terrible because sometimes I like my haunted house movies to feel like amusement parks. Rather, that bombastic movie almost made me miss out on the original story and what makes Jackson stand out as a writer while teaching me, an aspiring horror writer, one of the greatest lessons about horror. Horror doesn’t have to be the spectacle of screaming ghosts and houses growing teeth; sometimes, the quieter moments guarantee a raise of one’s hackles. Throughout “Hill House”, Jackson keeps it ambiguous whether the ghosts haunting protagonist Eleanor are real or in her head, and the book never gives a definitive answer, leaving readers with an uncomfortable lack of resolution.
In fact, Jackson taught me that “uncomfortable” is a great way to keep horror readers interested. Hill shows off her ability to generate this discomfort in her book “We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ (F Jack), leaving readers to try and piece together an unsettling family dynamic. But maybe you, dear reader, don’t want to be made uncomfortable, and that’s okay. My point is not just to obsess over how awesome a horror writer Shirley Jackson is; it’s to stress how your next favorite author (or writing mentor) could be somewhere in the library, waiting to be discovered. The library is literally filled with new authors and new stories to discover. The library has so many books that could introduce you to your next favorite author, open your mind to a new way of thinking, or be a temporary addition to your to-be-read tower. But as you build your to-be-read tower, you should probably keep it away from your air conditioner.