This may well be my favorite comma in all of literature. It’s not grammatically necessary; you might, if you were so inclined (I’m not), argue that it’s incorrect. But here it is, the last breath of the paragraph, and I like to think that it’s SJ’s way of saying, “This is your last chance to set this book down and go do something else, like work in your garden or go down the street for an ice cream cone. Because from this point on it’s just you, and me, and whatever it is that walks, and walks alone, in Hill House.” I don’t think that anyone’s going anywhere. Right?
We asked Random House copy chief Ben Dreyer to annotate the eerily memorable and exceptionally well-constructed first paragraph of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and it’s just marvelous.