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Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories

by Shirley Jackson

Other authors: Joyce Carol Oates (Editor)

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8421526,282 (4.46)6
"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."--Jacket.… (more)
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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I liked the novels. The stories, particularly the uncollected ones, didn't do too much for me. ( )
  k6gst | Jan 16, 2024 |
American Master of Subtle Suspense

This Library of America volume contains Shirley Jackson’s two most famous novels, The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), as well her only published collection of short fiction, The Lottery; Or the Adventures of James Harris. The volume also includes 21 uncollected stories and sketches, of which six were unpublished, and “Biography of a Story,” concerning the public reaction to her most famous short story, “The Lottery.” Fans of Jackson, of course, will find this a valuable addition to their personal libraries; those new to her or familiar only with her best known work will especially enjoy discovering the full breath of her short fiction, many disturbing in very subtle ways.

Jackson is a master of subtle suspense. An ever tightening spring seems always to be lurking in the background, creating tension in a reader until Jackson springs it. Examples include Eleanor Vance’s growing obsession with Hill House, how the house brings out and intensifies her insecurities, until, in the end, it and they fully possess her in an explosive conclusion. We know that Mary Katherine Blackwood is quite a strange young woman from the opening paragraph of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but we become aware of the depth of that murderous strangeness slowly over the course of her narrative. “The Lottery” begins almost picturesquely, small town America preparing for a celebration centered around a lottery, but with each small event presented, such as Billy Martin filling his pockets with stones at the opening, we feel something ominous in the air. Not all is horror. There are pieces—“After You, My Dear Alphonse” and “Afternoon in Linen,” to cite two—which comment on societal prejudices and expectations of the times (which, incidentally, many will see as still with us). All in all, you’ll come away agreeing the Jackson was a master of short fiction.

This volume contains the hallmarks of LOA collections, among them a timeline bio of Jackson, footnotes clarifying references in the texts, and an explanation of where the stories first appeared. What would have truly enhanced this volume would have been an essay by Joyce Carol Oates, herself the master of gothic horror and social fiction, as well as reviews and commentaries by Jackson contemporaries similar to those appearing in other LOA collections. Nonetheless, readers will not regret adding this collection to their shelves. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
American Master of Subtle Suspense

This Library of America volume contains Shirley Jackson’s two most famous novels, The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), as well her only published collection of short fiction, The Lottery; Or the Adventures of James Harris. The volume also includes 21 uncollected stories and sketches, of which six were unpublished, and “Biography of a Story,” concerning the public reaction to her most famous short story, “The Lottery.” Fans of Jackson, of course, will find this a valuable addition to their personal libraries; those new to her or familiar only with her best known work will especially enjoy discovering the full breath of her short fiction, many disturbing in very subtle ways.

Jackson is a master of subtle suspense. An ever tightening spring seems always to be lurking in the background, creating tension in a reader until Jackson springs it. Examples include Eleanor Vance’s growing obsession with Hill House, how the house brings out and intensifies her insecurities, until, in the end, it and they fully possess her in an explosive conclusion. We know that Mary Katherine Blackwood is quite a strange young woman from the opening paragraph of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but we become aware of the depth of that murderous strangeness slowly over the course of her narrative. “The Lottery” begins almost picturesquely, small town America preparing for a celebration centered around a lottery, but with each small event presented, such as Billy Martin filling his pockets with stones at the opening, we feel something ominous in the air. Not all is horror. There are pieces—“After You, My Dear Alphonse” and “Afternoon in Linen,” to cite two—which comment on societal prejudices and expectations of the times (which, incidentally, many will see as still with us). All in all, you’ll come away agreeing the Jackson was a master of short fiction.

This volume contains the hallmarks of LOA collections, among them a timeline bio of Jackson, footnotes clarifying references in the texts, and an explanation of where the stories first appeared. What would have truly enhanced this volume would have been an essay by Joyce Carol Oates, herself the master of gothic horror and social fiction, as well as reviews and commentaries by Jackson contemporaries similar to those appearing in other LOA collections. Nonetheless, readers will not regret adding this collection to their shelves. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
I had of course read The Lottery in school and both my high schoolers have had it assigned multiple times already. But I had no idea it was the last piece of a larger collection strung between quotations about witch prosecution. The stories all together are very intimate - lots of details about clothing, houseware objects, social standing and small town routine encounters. It's a thoughtful woman's voice from an era when that was rare enough. A lot of the stories are about what isn't said and most of them are about evil but not all. I had read the Castle a long time ago but couldn't remember it. I'm glad to have gone through it again. It offers interesting things to argue about.

As a whole these works describe interior experiences, and sometimes mental imbalances. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
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 vote elenchus | Sep 26, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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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Jackson, Shirleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (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."--Jacket.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
A compilation of the three books and various short stories written by Shirley Jackson. Some of the short stories have, until now, never been published in book form, others had not been published at all until this anthology was compiled.

Contents:

The Lottery; or The Adventures of James Harris
An anthology of previously published short stories tied together by one character
The Intoxicated
The Daemon Lover
Like Mother Used to Make
Trial by Combat
The Villager
My Life with R. H. Macy
The Witch
The Renegade
After You, My Dear Alphonse
Charles
Afternoon in Linen
Flower Garden
Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors
Colloquy
Elizabeth
A Fine Old Firm
The Dummy
Seven Types of Ambiguity
Come Dance with Me in Ireland
Of Course
Pillar of Salt
Men with Their Big Shoes
The Tooth
Got a Letter from Jimmy
The Lottery


The Haunting of Hill House: A novel

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: A novel

Other Stories and Sketches:
Previously Uncollected stories
Janice
A Cauliflower in Her Hair
Behold the Child Among His Newborn Blisses
It Isn't The Money I Mind
The Third Baby's the Easiest
The Summer People
Island
The Night We All Had Grippe
A Visit; or, The Lovely House
This is the Life; or Journey with a Lady
One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts
Louisa, Please Come Home
The Little House
The Bus
The Possibility of Evil


Previously Unpublished stories
Portrait
The Mouse
I Know Who I Love
The Beautiful Stranger
The Rock
The Honeymoon of Mrs. Smith


Biography of a Story - Essay
Haiku summary

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