Friday, May 28, 2010

New Yesterday: Shirley Jackson: Novel & Stories

The literary world of Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) was an ephemeral place, and not in a pretty way. To look through Jackson-tinted glasses is to never be quite sure what you’re looking at. A calm day in a normal life can erupt into a madness -- and perhaps back -- in the blink of an eye.

Shirley Jackson: Novel & Stories (Library of America) is edited by another esteemed writer of whose work has a gothic bent, Joyce Carol Oates (The Gravedigger’s Daughter, Blonde). The collection includes the suite of stories that make up The Lottery, including the title story which, when published in The New Yorker, drew more reader mail than any story, before or since. Also included are The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and other stories.

While “The Lottery” is Jackson’s best known work, The Haunting of Hill House is the most esteemed. Since the publication of the novel in 1959, many critics have described the book as one of the most important gothic novels to be written in English.

Though I read “The Lottery” in high school, I’d been wanting to read more deeply of this author for a long time. Shirley Jackson: Novel & Stories is the perfect reply to that desire, collecting what is among the very best work of this terrific author. It’s a great addition to an already super series from The Library of America.

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