Hangsaman, Shirley Jackson & Vorgeschmack Rosé, Arndorfer
Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson & Vorgeschmack Rosé by Arndorfer
by Kim Kent
3 years ago
For this month’s pairing, I bring you mostly unconnected thoughts on: literary genres, change, the not-quite-end of summer, cults, and rosé:
Lately, I’ve been craving a type of novel that feels a bit like responding to a name that isn’t yours. I’m calling this genre, in which Shirley Jackson is the obvious cult leader, an interior thriller. Hangsaman is a novel full of edges and it turns on them sharply. There are moments that feel seemingly about to veer off a ledge into a landscape of doubt, but then it doesn’t. Arriving at the edge is simply part of the thrill. Jackson’s voice is one of “steel and subtle padding.” She doesn’t let us fall, not completely. I promise.
Change is an edge we come to often, but mostly recognize only after we’ve stepped over. Maybe because time is immense despite the fact our passage through it is so quick, we experience change as an afterglow—rarely possessing the consciousness to observe it as it occurs. Much of the strangeness in Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman is that Jackson, through her protagonist Natalie Waite, is able to name precisely, like a small knife cutting tight around a bone, the moment of the shift.
Last week I was in the woods drinking this month’s wine while watching a tree with glass-thin leaves shake in the wind. It sounded like something about to splinter: the season, the leaves, me, everything out there waiting. I felt I was on the edge of something. There is a specific moment when the season changes, and I wasn’t there yet.
The cult of rosé—all day, every day—is one, alongside the cult of Shirley Jackson, I happily participate in. There’s a delicious sense of possession in being on the inside. The Vorgeschmack Rosé from the Arndorfer winery in Kamptal, Austria is cherry bright and tart, with just enough minerality to stand up to any sort of occult ritual you might want to participate in, or not. One hundred percent Rotburger, also know as Zweigelt, blended with the skins of Gruner Veltliner during fermentation, it’s a rosé the color of pomegranates, or blood, or both.
Shirley Jackson thrills me. I read her famous 1945 short story The Lottery in middle school and have been obsessed ever since. She was born in San Francisco in 1916 and died in Vermont in 1965. She wrote six novels and hundreds of short stories. Hangsaman was written in 1951. Like many female writers publishing in the first half of the 20th century, interest in her work (and life) is having a resurgence. There’s a new fictional movie about her life, but I suggest just reading more of her books.
The Arndorfer winery is located in Kamptal, Austria and run by a husband and wife team of multi-generational winemakers. They know what they’re doing, but seem unfussy about what they’re doing: making tasty wine. They primarily age in steel, but blend this rosé with a bit of French Oak; they like oak, but only “atmospherically,” which is how I feel about most things.