Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Shirley Jackson: a Rather Haunted Life

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted LifeShirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ms. Jackson was my dad's contemporary, born about the same year as he and dying too early, like him. He expected women to be conventionally good-looking, to be accomplished cooks, to be totally devoted to caring for husband, house and family, and certainly not to be too interested in reading (or writing!) books. Other than being a superb cook, Shirley would not have met any of my dad's criteria. Apparently, she was a disappointment to her own mother because she neglected her appearance and insisted on setting aside time to write. Her husband recognized her talent, but the marriage was not a happy one. They both wrote books, but the royalties from her books largely supported the family. Unlike  him, she was steady and industrious, regularly publishing novels and stories. It was her income that bought them a large house and allowed him develop a course on literature that became one of the most popular at Bennington, a progressive college for women. Still, he seemed resentful in a passive-aggressive kind of way.  He also had numerous affairs. Shirley's biographer links her writings to her struggles with her demons. She noted that Stephen King thought her one of the best writers of the 20th century. I don't happen to enjoy King's work, so I probably wouldn't like Shirley's macabre tales either. However, I plan to read "Life Among the Savages", her best-selling account of bringing up her four quirky and intelligent children.

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