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A bewitchingly brilliant collection of never-before-published letters from the renowned author of “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS • “This biography-through-letters gives an intimate and warm voice to the imagination behind the treasury of uncanny tales that is Shirley Jackson’s legacy.”—Joyce Carol Oates
Shirley Jackson is one of the most important American authors of the last hundred years and among our greatest chroniclers of the female experience. This extraordinary compilation of personal correspondence has all the hallmarks of Jackson’s beloved fiction: flashes of the uncanny in the domestic, sparks of horror in the quotidian, and the veins of humor that run through good times and bad.
i am having a fine time doing a novel with my left hand and a long story—with as many levels as grand central station—with my right hand, stirring chocolate pudding with a spoon held in my teeth, and tuning the television with both feet.
Written over the course of nearly three decades, from Jackson’s college years to six days before her early death at the age of forty-eight, these letters become the autobiography Shirley Jackson never wrote. As well as being a bestselling author, Jackson spent much of her adult life as a mother of four in Vermont, and the landscape here is often the everyday: raucous holidays and trips to the dentist, overdue taxes and frayed lines of Christmas lights, new dogs and new babies. But in recounting these events to family, friends, and colleagues, she turns them into remarkable stories: entertaining, revealing, and wise. At the same time, many of these letters provide fresh insight into the genesis and progress of Jackson’s writing over nearly three decades.
The novel is getting sadder. It’s always such a strange feeling—I know something’s going to happen, and those poor people in the book don’t; they just go blithely on their ways.
Compiled and edited by her elder son, Laurence Jackson Hyman, in consultation with Jackson scholar Bernice M. Murphy and featuring Jackson’s own witty line drawings, this intimate collection holds the beguiling prism of Shirley Jackson—writer and reader, mother and daughter, neighbor and wife—up to the light.
The life of Shirley Jackson (1916 1965) as a mother and a writer emerges in vivid detail in this collection of correspondence, edited by her son Hyman (Let Me Tell You). The letters begin with Jackson at college writing to her future husband, Stanley Hyman. As the couple marries and starts a family, missives describe her burgeoning writing career and the comic escapades of being a mother. Primarily written to her agent and parents, the letters hit a high note in 1953, when the then-bestselling author and mother of four wrote to her parents that it was "the best year we've ever known." But by 1955, Jackson's downhill slide had begun: she got colitis and her health was failing, her marriage began to collapse, and her agoraphobia worsened. Two poignant letters were left unsent: one to Stanley, outlining the pain his womanizing, disregard, and mockery caused her "indifference breeds indifference" and another to her parents, reacting to their criticism of her appearance. Her cartoons, one of the most charming elements of the collection, also chronicle a marriage in decline. Full of wit and heartbreak, this volume shines, and Jackson's singular prose never fails to entertain.