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Review:: Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Goodreads Summary:
Let Me Tell You brings together the deliciously eerie short stories Jackson is best known for, along with frank, inspiring lectures on writing; comic essays about her large, boisterous family; and whimsical drawings. Jackson’s landscape here is most frequently domestic: dinner parties and bridge, household budgets and homeward-bound commutes, children’s games and neighborly gossip. But this familiar setting is also her most subversive: She wields humor, terror, and the uncanny to explore the real challenges of marriage, parenting, and community—the pressure of social norms, the veins of distrust in love, the constant lack of time and space. For the first time, this collection showcases Shirley Jackson’s radically different modes of writing side by side. Together they show her to be a magnificent storyteller, a sharp, sly humorist, and a powerful feminist.

My Review:
Believe it or not, OCD me is going about my Shirley Jackson experience backward. I'm starting with this collection of (mostly) previously unpublished stories. Co-edited by two of Jackson’s children, this volume was compiled from Jackson's papers at the Library of Congress.

Shirley Jackson's humor is unparalleled in any modern stories I have read. It's so subtle and smart. I think some writers have tried to bring the humor of being a wife and mother to their stories but they sacrifice subtlety in favor of in your face "realness" (see Honest Toddler or Scary Mommy). I see Jackson's influence in some current writers like Helen Ellis, but I wish it was more prevalent. Jackson cracks me up and inspires me. Here are 2 of my favorite examples: 

from The Ghosts of Loiret:
"I have never liked the theory that poltergeists only come into houses where there are children, because I think it is simply too much for any one house to have poltergeists and children..."

from How I Write: 
"One of the nicest things about being a writer is that nothing ever gets wasted. It's a little like the frugal housewife who carefully tucks away al the odds and ends of string beans and cold bacon and serves them up magnificently in a fancy casserole dish. A winter who is serious and economical can store away small fragments of ideas and events and conversations, and even facial expressions and mannerisms, and us them all someday."

Next up in my Shirley Jackson readings is Ruth Franklin's biography, A Rather Haunted Life.  

1 comment

Judy Krueger said...

I have read all of Shirley Jackson's novels as well as her books about raising kids. She is a wonder. I too plan to read that biography. Isn't she great? Even though she was quite a troubled person. You have plenty to look forward to.