Monday, December 9, 2013

Hangsaman

(Scary Faces: A sailor with a waxed on grimace and grinning eyes as he remembers the last sea monster he sleighed and how her children called for her afterward; Wide yellow eyes on s sunny afternoon, a face so red a beating heart would swoon; A man, whose body is buried or gone, nothing to do but think, think, think; round faced ghost lost in a bleary basement full of old dust and old clothes.)

    At the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, the current exhibit is the art of Franz Von Stuck. Franz Von Stuck is a German painter who lived from 1863 to 1928. My friend and I went to go see the exhibit together a couple of weeks ago. Stuck's paintings are mythic and dark and have a real Gothic sensibility to them. The images are atmospheric and eerie. There seems to be stories not quite told in the shadows of his paintings. It was fun wandering around and looking at all his paintings.
   The Frye museum has one big room at the back of the museum that is full of their permanent collection. The work is displayed unlike most museums where there is one painting against a sea of white wall, and then another painting several feet over. The back museum at the Frye has paintings from ceiling to floor on all four walls of the big room. It is far less orderly then what a museum-goer is accustomed to, but I love it. It is a peaceful room to let oneself get lost in all the images. My friend and I sat in that room for almost an hour, looking at paintings and sometimes making up stories about them.
  After spending an afternoon looking at Franz Stucks dark imagery, I was in the mood for a good Gothic book. But I specifically wanted a Modern Gothic novel. Even though I quite like the Victorian Gothics I've read, I wanted something written after 1940. After my friend and I parted ways, I walked to the downtown library. After wandering around the fiction section, I ended up with a small stack of books. The four I have not yet read are 'Alias Grace', 'The Road Through The Wall', 'The House at Riverton', and 'The Bloody Chamber'. The one I am currently reading is 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane'. I have the tendency of checking out more books then I can actually finish in the allotted time before they are due. So I know I will not actually finish all of these books (At least this time), so if anyone has read any of the four that I have not read yet, I'd love to hear your recommendation. I also checked out the book 'Hangsaman' by Shirley Jackson, which is the first one I read.


  I really love Shirley Jackson. She writes stories that are absolutely delightful in their utter eeriness. Sometimes when I am reading her work, I feel like I am reading two stories, the story she is telling and another story she is not quite telling, but sort of hinting at. The book 'We Have Always Lived in The Castle' is one of my all time favorite books. 'Hangsaman' was also a great and unsettling book about a young woman named Natalie and her experience at college.  The story starts when Natalie is still living at home with her overbearing father, depressed mother, and mostly absent little brother. Later on at school, Natalie has trouble making social connections until she befriends a depressed woman who is the young wife of her English professor. The professor (Arthur) and his wife (Elizabeth) have a dysfunctional, unhappy relationship that mirrors the relationship of Natalie's own parents. Most of the book seems like an ordinary story about a girl trying to make her way in the world of college, but there are always hints at something darker. It isn't till toward the end of the novel where the reader really starts to question what is reality and what is make believe, and how stable Natalie's perspective is. In the end, I think there is something so sad and lonesome about this story and just thinking about Natalie makes me feel sad.

(Ferocious lion with babies breath; tree shedding it's leaves on a foggy day; the littlest barn on a city's country road; an empty room like a stormy sea.)

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