Friday, June 26, 2015

Shirley Jackson: The Empress of Eerie

On June 26, 1948 The New Yorker published Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery. Readers were outraged and it has been said that The New Yorker had never received so much angry mail over a story. Even Jackson's parents wrote her

"Dad and I did not at all care for your story in The New Yorker...[I]t does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story is what all you young people think about these days. Why don't you write something to cheer people up?" (Mental Floss: 11 Facts about Shirley Jackson's The Lottery)

I can still remember being assigned this book in school and being horrified at the unexpected ending. Jackson was a master at making the ordinary seem frightening and her stories are still as unnerving as they were when written. I admire Jackson because she wrote haunting stories as well as she wrote about the humor in her own life of raising children in Vermont in memoirs such as Raising Demons. It's my belief that you can't appreciate the dark without understanding the humor.

Today, I assign all of us a Shirley Jackson summer reading list. You can start with her bibliography. Once you finish those, head over to the website of The Shirley Jackson Awards for a list of current books by authors working in the genres of psychological suspense, horror, or dark fantasy. The Shirley Jackson Awards have been given out since 2007 to authors of novels, novellas, novelettes, short fiction, single-author collections, and edited anthologies. The only thing missing is the grocery list. The list of winners and nominees makes a fabulous reading list. I hope this is a long summer. The 2014 winners should be announced any day now.

Enough lecturing, on to the shopping.....

Award for Best Inapropriate Cover

Shirley Jackson Doll

St. Shirley Candle

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