It’s not a come-back. It’s not a rediscovery. It is more like delayed appreciation. Suddenly the author Shirley Jackson is back in the media press. 60 years after she was first published, her more famous pieces were collected into a volume and published by The Library of America in 2010. Last year a collection of some of her short stories never before collected was published by two of her children under the title Let Me Tell You: new stories, essays, and other writings. Of this new collection, Library Journal says, “Remember the chilling excitement of reading Jackson’s The Lottery for the first time? You’ll have the same experience over and over again with this new collection.” Now this month comes a major new biography about this author, Shirley Jackson: a haunted life by Ruth Franklin. The fly leaf from this new book says, “Placing Jackson within an American Gothic tradition that stretches back to Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on ‘domestic horror’ ”. The final piece of tribute – at least for now – is the publication of a graphic novel done by her grandson of her most famous short story, “The Lottery”.
I’m confident in saying that no one who has ever read The Lottery will forget it. I certainly never have. Two other short story favorites of mine are her One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts and The Summer People.
Shirley Jackson is also the author of The Haunting of Hill House which has become extremely well respected as an example of the quiet psychological horror that builds in a “haunted” house. Stephen King has mentioned her several times as a cause of inspiration for him. Robert Wise directed a classic haunted house movie starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom based on the book. Another novel worth discovering by Jackson (but again, aren’t they all worth discovering?) is We have always lived in the castle about a “cunning adolescent who has gone to quite unusual lengths to preserve her ideal of family happiness.”
Isn’t it time you join the legion of fans of Shirley Jackson?
Scott Handville, Assistant Library Director