August 25, 2016

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life   
by Ruth Franklin
publisher  W.W. Norton & Co.
to be published September 27, 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:  When I was a teenager,  I babysat across the street.   The children's mom had bookshelves overflowing.  I found many favorites, including Shirley Jackson's humorous  Life Among Savages and Raising Demons.  To think!  This is the same author who wrote The Lottery,  in one of Pat's anthologies of short stories.  During those teenage years, I also went to the movie The Haunting based upon Jackson's book The Haunting of Hill House.    Shirley Jackson was a strong part of my literary upbringing, so I was delighted to be able to review her newest biography.

The author of Jackson's biography gives a too-long chapter "Foundations"  about Jackson's ancestors.  The chapter explains why she wrote spooky stories about haunted houses.   Her maternal ancestors were architects of mansions in California and fans of the supernatural such as the Ouija board.  The fact that Shirley's mother was overly-critical goes on to tell why there are no loving maternal characters in her novels.

The author goes off on several tangents throughout the book. One example is the description of the Witch Trial years in Massachusetts.   True, Shirley wrote about witches, however I felt the author attempted to pad the biography in order to add more pages.   Six hundred twenty four pages!

While reading the biography, I also read some of Jackson's short stories on the internet:
Charles  (exactly as I remember it from the first time I read it)
Paranoia
The Man in the Woods

My perspective:  a shorter biography would have packed a better punch at describing Shirley Jackson, her life and its influence upon her writings.