Dec 14, 2016
One hundred years ago today, horror and humor writer Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco, California. To celebrate this centennial, I spoke with her grandson, Miles Hyman, about her work and her legacy. Hyman is an accomplished artist in his own right, and just released a graphic novel adaptation of what is perhaps Jackson’s most famous work, her short story “The Lottery.” Hyman had been looking for a way to approach the story for years, he writes in his introduction, but found the story had a “no-nonsense, largely hermetic structure, words joined with a jeweler’s precision,” and it was hard to find his way in. It’s an important story, one that appears in countless anthologies. Some may even recognize it from their high school literature courses. Jackson is a foundational horror writer, praised by everyone from bestselling author Stephen King, who credits The Haunting of Hill House as an inspiration for The Shining, to director Guillermo del Toro, who chose to include Hill House in his horror series for Penguin Classics. More and more people seem to be finding her work again these days, and that trend looks to continue in the near future. Ruth Franklin released a new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, in September. Another of Jackson’s novels, We Have Always Lived In the Castle, is being adapted into a movie by Concussion director Stacie Passon, slated for release in 2017. Last year, Random House published Let Me Tell You, a volume of previously unpublished stories, essays, and other writing. And there is plenty in her catalogue for new fans to discover, from novels like The Bird’s Nest and The Sundial to her humorous domestic memoirs, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons.
Hyman gives a personal touch to Jackson’s legacy. He was too young when his grandmother died in 1965 to have spent much time with her – he was just shy of three years old. But he has his family’s memories, and things that he says, in the introduction to “The Lottery,” like a love for Christmas, cats, and poker. We concentrate mostly on the work in this conversation, but that’s personal, too. And he shares a memory of what it was like to be introduced as Shirley Jackson’s grandson when he was a kid that I found especially amusing.
After the interview, stick around for a preview of the new Wild Feathers album, Live at the Ryman. If you’re listening to this podcast today or tomorrow, you won’t be able to get Live at the Ryman until Friday, but you’ll hear “Left My Woman” right after the interview with Mr. Hyman. I’ll be reviewing it for the New Release Roundup, as well.