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Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories (The Lottery / The Haunting of Hill…

de Shirley Jackson

Altres autors: Joyce Carol Oates (Editor)

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"In just two decades--she died in 1965, at the age of 48--Shirley Jackson created a weird and distinctive world of fiction, one in which a grinning death's head lies just behind the smiling mask of so-called everyday life. She first displayed her genius for conjuring daylight demons in The Lottery, the classic collection whose world-famous title story is an allegory of bloodlust and blind obedience to tradition. She perfected it in two great Gothic novels: The Haunting of Hill House, the tale of an achingly empathetic young woman chosen by a haunted house to be its new tenant, and We Have Always Lived in the castle, the unrepentant confessions of Miss Merricat Blackwood, a cunning adolescent who has gone to quite unusual lengths to preserve her ideal of family happiness. All three books are here, together with 21 other stories and sketchest--two of them previously uncollected--that present the author in all her many modes: unrivalled mistress of the macabre, groundbreaking domestic humorist, and subtle social satirist." --BOOK JACKET.… (més)
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THE LOTTERY: OR, THE ADVENTURES OF JAMES HARRIS | read 2018-12

A seldom-remarked fact about this collection is Jackson's notion of a character (James Harris) linking the separate tales. This link is subtly presented and Jackson doesn't mention it explicitly in the book, leaving readers to divine it from the subtitle, an obscure epilogue, and peculiar epigraphs to section pages. The book's various title changes rendered an obscure clue almost invisible: The Lottery: or, The Adventures of James Harris was amended to The Lottery and Other Stories, and then to just The Lottery in some editions. The epigraphs are all sourced from an historical document on witchcraft (with Part One's quote originally omitted in error by the publisher). The epilogue is an excerpt from a Scottish murder ballad naming James Harris. Stories use variations of the name, or refer to him by common characteristics (e.g., a blue suit), so without the explicit mention in the subtitle, Harris is not obvious to the first-time reader.

If all that weren't ambiguous enough, the various storylines do not interlink, nor does witchcraft figure explicitly in any one. Though Harris appears in the majority of stories, most often he lurks "in the wings" rather than taking a speaking part, never mind appearing center stage. I found no reference to him in "The Lottery" itself, arguably the most sinister story here. He figures most memorably in "Like Mother Used To Make", yet most prominently --without actually appearing-- in "The Daemon Lover".

The effect of looking for Harris's influence, then, is remarkable, given his elided presence.

There are 25 stories grouped into into four untitled sections, most featuring social interactions between people and often outside of the family. Most of Jackson's protagonists are women, and all take place in an unspecified 20th Century United States. Urban settings are typical, though rural places are featured, such as in "The Lottery".

My key impression: in contrast to Christian invocations of witchcraft, Jackson's conception appears to work backward. That is, instead of witchcraft causing the evil behavior of people (such as adultery, oppression, murder), Jackson suggests those evil behaviors will summon James Harris or, at the least, be attended by him. In some fashion, Harris contributes to a larger influence in the world. Pondering just what that larger influence might be, and how it works, is precisely what ends up informing the story in each case, and the collection as a whole.

WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE | read 2018-07

As odd and compelling a read as I dared hope, given the distortion that expectations can bring to the reading experience. Part of that oddness stems from the open interpretation to events in the story: whether there is any supernatural element, or whether all is accounted for psychologically, is left to the reader. Another part is Jackson's deliberate ambivalence regarding the age of Merricat, and the time in which the story is set. Easy enough to assume a contemporary setting, and there are clues suggesting the U.S. in the 1950s, but descriptions also suggest sometime between the World Wars. And is it small town New England or semi-urban Deep South? Apparently written over three years in a New York college town, it seems no accident that Jackson never specifies the time or the place. Thematically reminiscent of "The Lottery", though it's been years since I've read that story so the comparison is based upon the force each story had on me, and not any specific parallels which may or may not be there.

Merricat displays classic symptoms of PTSD: first the magical thinking which defines the majority of the book, and later repeated displays of OCD behavior. Clearly she suffered serious trauma both before and during the events of the story, though these too are vaguely defined on key points. All of which contributes to the uncertainty as to whether she's in her late teens or late twenties, her thoughts and speech and actions veer between child and adult. I did not research whether PTSD (under whatever terminology) was clinically defined in the 1950s, but of course the First World War made "shell shock" a cultural reference point.

LOA's chronology suggests but never comments explicitly on the clear parallels between the novel's themes and an aspect of Jackson's biography. Stemming from Jackson's concerns over a teacher's treatment of her daughter and other children, the community actively harasses Jackson and her family, to the point Jackson becomes a recluse. Jackson was uncharacteristic in taking three years to write the novel itself.

To be read:
UNCOLLECTED STORIES
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE ( )
4 vota elenchus | Sep 26, 2018 |
..with an afterword by Joyce Carol Oates (I can't think of any other writer more suited for the job of writing about Ms. Jackson, the two women both have the sense of the macabre about them!!)


For someone who looked so safe in her publicity stills, Shirley Jackson was anything but. An inspiration to Stephen King (whose photo DEFINITELY gives you a clue to his dark side), Jackson wrote stories that are creepy because you can’t sweep them under the bed, thinking they could never happen in real life.

Her infamous short story "The Lottery" eerily captures the brute force of a small town gone wrong, years before mob mentality became front page news. But as chilling and powerful as "The Lottery" is, it’s her lesser known tales that are my absolute favorites and (I think) her true gems.

Some of the stories are downright scary; besides "The Lottery," there’s the bizarre and chilling "The Intoxicated," where a teenage girl startles a grown man with her vision of the future. Others, including “Charles” — complete with a startling twist at the end — are surprisingly adorable and funny. And some are heartbreakingly sad, as is “The Daemon Lover” where a hopeful, deluded woman waits a LONG time for the fiance who never shows at her door.

Response to the publication of "The Lottery" in the New Yorker was so strong many people canceled their subscriptions: response to "The Lottery"

Jackson was not particularly prolific, but what she did write (including posthumously released collections like Just An Ordinary Day) was (and still is) often downright delicious.

Also included in the Library of America edition (it's about time LOA recognize how great a writer Jackson was!) are the two unnerving novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. ( )
1 vota booksandcats4ever | Jul 30, 2018 |
Very strange. Completed The Lottery; Or, the Adventures of James Harris and The Haunting of Hill House. Did not read the rest of the stories in this collection. ( )
  francesanngray | Jul 18, 2018 |
This is a wonderful collection of one of my favorite authors' work. It includes the two most famous novels--We Have Always Lived in the Castle (her best, in my opinion) and The Haunting of Hill House (a great and influential work)--along with a generous selection of stories, including of course The Lottery, the story that put her on the literary map. Having these novels and stories all together invites comparisons between them, and you can see how the sense of an eerie unquiet mind, and of pervasive and banal small-town evil, carry over from work to work. The Library of America has done a great service to include Shirley Jackson in its series, for she was (and remains) an under-appreciated master--not just of gothic horror, not just of the slippery line between reality and fantasy, but of the seamy underside of American life itself.

For a detailed review of The Haunting of Hill House, see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1944041668?book_show_action=false&from... ( )
1 vota MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
Great selections of Jackson's stories! ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 11 (següent | mostra-les totes)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is an entrancing, unsettling tale that builds like the pressure pushed ahead of an approaching storm; Jackson weaves words like Merricat makes the talismans that she believes must protect what is left of her family from the outside world. The pressure and tension climbs and climbs towards a climax that is simultaneously unavoidable and shocking.
 

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Oates, Joyce CarolEditorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

"In just two decades--she died in 1965, at the age of 48--Shirley Jackson created a weird and distinctive world of fiction, one in which a grinning death's head lies just behind the smiling mask of so-called everyday life. She first displayed her genius for conjuring daylight demons in The Lottery, the classic collection whose world-famous title story is an allegory of bloodlust and blind obedience to tradition. She perfected it in two great Gothic novels: The Haunting of Hill House, the tale of an achingly empathetic young woman chosen by a haunted house to be its new tenant, and We Have Always Lived in the castle, the unrepentant confessions of Miss Merricat Blackwood, a cunning adolescent who has gone to quite unusual lengths to preserve her ideal of family happiness. All three books are here, together with 21 other stories and sketchest--two of them previously uncollected--that present the author in all her many modes: unrivalled mistress of the macabre, groundbreaking domestic humorist, and subtle social satirist." --BOOK JACKET.

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