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Who was she
Shirley Hardie Jackson (December 14, 1916 - August 8, 1965) was an American horror and mystery author. Her first novel “The Road Through the Wall” (1948) was about her childhood in California and launched a career that saw her publish six novels and over 200 short stories!
She was a private and enigmatic figure who kept herself out of the eye of the public as best she could, allowing her books to speak for themselves.
Netflix and “The Haunting of Hill House”
Just in time for Halloween Netflix released a ten part series adaptation of “The Haunting of Hill House” perhaps Jackson’s best known work.
It has received very positive reviews but we at BLG weren’t very impressed with the series as it didn’t stay true to the wonderful book at all.
The Haunting of Hill House has been on the silver screen twice before. Once in 1963 and once in 1999 both with the title “The Haunting”. The ‘99 film starring Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones was met with a poor critical reception for being too overtly supernatural and missing the psychological elements that really make the book special.
Her short story “The Lottery” has been described as “one of the most famous short stories in American literature” and has seen numerous incarnations on radio, television and the stage. In addition to this a total of three films have been made with another in production this year (2018)
1962’s “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” was made into a broadway play and a musical in 1966 and 2010 respectively. The ‘66 play had a short run of only 11 nights but the musical is still performed by regional theatre companies to this day. Michael Douglas’ production company “Further Films” released a film adaptation in September 2018
Jackson’s work has received much critical acclaim. Stephen King in “Danse Macabre” his non-fiction review of the horror genre marks “The Haunting of Hill House” as “one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th Century”.
Jackson received multiple awards for her works across her career including several New York Times Book Awards and The Edgar Allan Poe Award for best American short stories.
In 2007 the people in charge of her estate established an award in her honour celebrating outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic.
Don’t just take our word for it or be put off by a few bad movie reviews! Why not head over to the shop where copies of “The Haunting of Hill House” and our “Don’t judge a Book by its movie” bags are available now!
With Halloween just around the corner BLG will be bringing you some spooky book related stories from around the web. To kick us off we bring you the tale of a grizzly discovery at Harvard University’s Houghton Library in 2014.
What is it?
Arsene Houssaye’s Des destinies de l’ame is an example of anthropodermic binding - the practice of binding books in human skin. Quite fittingly it is a book about the soul and life after death!
Is it definitely human skin?
Scientists and researchers at Harvard University are pretty confident it is. The Director of Mass Spectronomy and Proteomics Resource Laboratory, Bill Lane said it is “very unlikely that the source could be other than human,” and Senior Rare Book Conservator Alan Puglia stated a 99% certainty that the binding came from a human being.
Yes! Binding books in animal leather is common even to this day, but there are many examples as recently as the 19th century of using human skin for bookbinding.
How old is it?
It was completed in the mid 1880’s and has been in Harvard’s collection for more than 80 years. Houssaye gifted the manuscript to his friend Dr Ludovic Bouland, a doctor and renowned Book Lover. Later it was donated to the Harvard collection by a John B. Stetson, Jr. in 1934 where it became a book of legend to students and bibliophiles alike.
Who’s skin and why?!
Often the bodies of executed criminals were donated to science and the skins would find their way to tanners and bookbinders, but this particular edition was bound using the skin from an female mental patient who had died of a stroke. Sadly, her body remained unclaimed and thus made its way into the strange world of anthropodermic binding. Houssaye inserted a note into the book explaining his choice: “Un livre sur l’Ame humaine méritait bien qu’on lui donnait un vetement humain” “A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.”
What’s on your bookshelf?
It’s a fascinating glimpse into a practice that was once commonplace but makes our modern skin crawl. I think I prefer the wrapping paper and sticky tape method I used on textbooks when I was at school. This is one book we will definitely judge by its cover!
If you are looking to write down your own musings and want a well bound book to contain them we have some excellent notebooks available here: https://booklovergifts.com/collections/writers
Guaranteed 100% human-free.
We will be back with more gruesome tales in the lead up to Halloween so stay tuned, but for now I’m off to have some books from my bookshelf tested just in case!
You can read more here about the processes involved in uncovering the book’s history here: http://blogs.harvard.edu/houghton/2014/06/04/caveat-lecter/