Shirley Jackson, author of The Haunting of Hill House (1959) which is regarded by many as one of the important horror novels of the 20th century, wrote: “February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer.”

Shirley Jackson died in 1965. Today's readers probably don't know her, but, in her time, her writing was different and could probably be considered groundbreaking. She is said to have inspired Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Poppy Z. Brite, among others.

Perhaps best-known for "The Lottery," a short story published in 1948 in The New Yorker, she created a furor among readers with the story that suggested a sinister, secret underbelly existed in small-town America. Sounds as if her writing was ahead of her time.

Ms. Jackson's husband was literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman who wrote in a preface to a posthumous anthology of her work: "she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years."

Mr. Hyman went on to refute the critics' claims that the dark aspect of her writing was not a product of her "personal, even neurotic, fantasies." Rather, her writings were meant to be "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb."

Remember, this was the post WWII Cold War years. It should come as no surprise that The Lottery was banned in many places. Ms. Jackson took those prohibitions as a badge of honor.

Takeaway Truth

Bleak February. Take heart; spring is nigh.

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