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Thanks, Unca Harlan!

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

Thanks, Unca Harlan!

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mucha mosaic
So. Years ago, Harlan Ellison did a signing and writing-in-the-window on Haight Street. I was quite enthusiastic about this, and I went to see the fellow.
As often happens when you meet a writer in person, he's generally a far more cantankerous person in person. He was taking a break from writing and I happened to be in the store while he shot the breeze with some of the fans who'd come by.
One of them asked him if he was going to watch The Stand on TV, since Stephen King's such a good friend. "Good GOD no, I wouldn't waste my time on that crap." Everyone sort of blinked incredulously at him, and I took the opportunity to ask "Well... what would you suggest I spend six hours doing instead, then?" I didn't say 'Is there a book you'd recommend? A movie, or TV series? Tell me what qualifies as good entertainment in Harlan Ellison's world.' I probably should've, because he told me "Christ, ANYthing."
"Like what?"
"Christ, get a hysterectomy or something." Which, given that I'm not female, would certainly be a pretty huge waste of time.

A few hours pass, and I read 'The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore' in the collection he was signing. Good story, I think to myself.

About a year ago, I go to a science fiction bookstore with a huge heap of cash in my pocket and remember he recommends, in 'The Man Who Rowed...' a particular short story by Shirley Jackson. There's an anthology on the shelf (Just An Ordinary Day), so I picked it up. Yesterday I stumbled across it and finally started reading it.

Why didn't anybody tell me there was a Shirley Jackson? Good grief this woman could write. Beautiful stuff. Warm, human, sweet stuff. Stuff that makes your eyes widen, stuff that makes your heart warm. Amiable stuff, slightly scary stuff. It's all just- very very delightful. Huge recommend.

Thanks, Harlan.
  • And probably better than a hysterectomy.
  • I'm sorry but what kind of horrible fucking retard never hears of Shirley Jackson until they're 30 or nearly so? Her short story "The Lottery" is the most frequently reprinted English-language short story of the 20th century and is taught in schools all over the world.

    The Haunting Of Hill House is the most important horror novel of the 20th century and inspired more than one motion picture diretcly, and the entire latter-day haunted house novel/movie/true crime/space movie thing.

    I'm glad you found her, but Christ, you need a beating!
    • Woohoo, I'm a horrible fucking retard!

      I didn't say 'I only heard of her this year', I said 'I heard about her several years back, and didn't do anything until now'-- 'several years back' was uhm 26 or 27.
      Not picking her up earlier was a mistake, no doubt. Which is part of the reason I'm praising this anthology- in case somebody else is out there going 'duuuuhr Shirley Who?' like I was, it seemed appropriate to make sure people knew of her being out there.
      • Re: Woohoo, I'm a horrible fucking retard!

        Okay, you only get half a beating then.
        • Re: Woohoo, I'm a horrible fucking retard!

          Correction: I was 22 or 23, even. Gawd. Time flies.
    • Didn't know her by name, but have definitely read "The Lottery". I think it was also done as a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits at some point.

      Looks like I'll be hitting a bookstore later this month.
  • More cantankerous?! I've seen Ellison on TV a few times. I didn't think he could get more cantankerous.
    • Well, true. I hadn't seen him much on TV at all, at this point. This was a good... (think) 8-9 years ago. Maybe even 10.

      Gad but time flies.
  • sorry, i would have told you. i think it's pretty common to somehow assume everybody got assigned the same reading in school that you did.
  • I read "The Lottery" in High School, and it definitely stuck with me. I had the (apparently mistaken) impression that it was her only work of any note. Interesting to hear her other work described this way. It certainly sounds like she was very versatile.
    • ...Much of it reads, to me, like a female take on what Asimov's more 'mainstream' stories were like. 'Legal Rites' would be a good example of an Asimov-like-Jackson story.

      Devillish sense of humor.
  • Good stuff indeed.

    I should have read more Shirley Jackson by now--I read "The Lottery" when I was 16, and some other short story whose name escapes me (about a woman who out of nowhere gets the notion to murder her husband). But around that age I was obsessed with Sylvia Plath (which says quite a bit about my psyche back then), so a lot of other good reads faded into the background of my subconscious at that time. Thanks for posting this and reminding me, though--I've made a note to pick up this anthology myself. :)
  • colubra:

    Go read Haunting of Hill House. Now.

    Do as I say or the ferret gets hurt.
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