It's October, and I'm starting to feel in the mood for a creepy read, but a very particular creepy read.
If I had a copy, I'd reread Hangsaman, a 1951 novel by the incomparable Shirley Jackson. Hangsaman, which gets its title from the 15th century ballad "The Gallows Tree" , is about a shy college freshman named Natalie Waite who seems to be losing her already tenuous grip on reality. After a few weeks at school, she meets a girl named Tony and they get along great. Natalie is blissful, but there's something odd about Tony.
After We Have Always Lived In The Castle and Life Among the Savages, this is my favorite Shirley Jackson book. But the covers of successive editions make me crabby. No one ever gets it just right. Not like they do with Castle. That one has seen one excellent cover after another. The edition of Hangsaman pictured above seems to take things a little too literally.
This cover fits more with the spirit of the story, but it's got a 1960s feel. It's all psychedelic, man, and wow. Yeah, maybe some magic mushrooms would take away those awkward late-adolescent blues.
This is where I start snickering, but I'm wearing my annoyed face, too. The girl in the cover has Jacqueline Kennedy hair and pointy breasts and she's being blown backward towards a forbidding Gothic structure. It's like the illustrator got mixed up and drew for The Haunting of Hill House, a novel Jackson wrote several years later. The background and lettering is the obligatory slime green and aqua that you see on so many Phyllis A. Whitney covers.
Out of all the covers, I like this one the best. Red and black, and a partially destroyed Tarot card. Suggested twistedness is always the best. I could be happy with this copy. So would Shirley Jackson.