Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) was an American author known for her dark stories of mystery and horror. Her best known work is the short-story, "The Lottery
", about the dark underside of American small-town life, which has been adapted for film three times. Her novel The Haunting of Hill House
has been adapted for film twice, and several of her other works have been adapted for the stage or screen. She only wrote about half-a-dozen novels, but was a prolific short-story author.
In 2007, the Shirley Jackson Award for outstanding achievement in psychological suspense and dark fantasy was created in her honor.
Works with a page on this wiki:
Other works include:
- The Bird's Nest (1954)
- Raising Demons (memoir, 1957)
- The Road Through the Wall (her first novel, 1948)
- The Sundial (1958)
Tropes in her other works:
- All Cloth Unravels: In the very slightly autobiographical book Raising Demons, on a family trip to New York, 6-year-old Sally ties the loose thread of her knitted hat to a seat in the train before getting off: "I'd like to see that train get away," she says. Things don't get really challenging until the hotel turns out to have a revolving door.
- Imaginary Friend: Life Among the Savages, essays based on her family, describes a shopping trip with her son, daughter, and her daughter's seven daughters, all named Martha, whom Jannie has adopted after their real parents killed each other.
- Inextricably intertwined here with I Have Many Names: Jannie's real name is Joanne, after one of her parents wanted to name her Anne and the other Jean: "Her brother calls her Honey, Sis, and Dopey, Sally calls her Nannie, and she calls herself, variously, Jean, Jane, Anne, Linda, Barbara, Estelle, Josephine, Geraldine, Sarah, Sally, Laura, Margaret, Marilyn, Susan, and — imposingly — Mrs. Ellenoy. The second Mrs. Ellenoy." Mrs. Ellenoy's seven daughters all use these names as well, in a "constant bewildering shifting", so that "it is sometimes very difficult to remember whether you are addressing Janey Ellenoy or a small girl with seven daughters named Martha."
- Lovecraft Country: Jackson lived most of her adult life in Vermont, and many of her stories have the requisite flinty creepiness.
- Mistaken for an Imposter: The short story Louisa, Please Come Home concerns a nineteen-year-old girl who runs away from home and returns three years later only to find that she Can't Go Home Again. Because her family thinks she's an imposter after the reward money. Dramatic Irony ensues.
- Noodle Incident: It's never made quite clear exactly what Sally and her magic did to the clock: everyone in the family has agreed to speak no more of it. Jannie can still tell time on the clock, sort of, but Jannie is lefthanded anyway.
- Verbal Tic: In her loosely autobiographical Raising Demons, Jackson describes her daughter Sally going through a phase, at about four, where she repeated the key word in every sentence: "Well, I told Amy's mother that I did not have any breakfast, breakfast, because my mommy did not wake up and give it to me, mommy. And Amy's mother said I was a poor baby, baby, and she gave me cereal and fruit, cereal, and she said there, dear, and she gave me chocolate milk, and I did remember to say thank you, remember." (Jackson was gifted at capturing the Verbal Tic s of small children's speech: "You bad bad webbis.")
- Wham Line: In the short story "Charles" (later included in the fixup book Life Among the Savages), Jackson's son Laurie, a new kindergartener, is constantly telling stories about a mischievous classmate Charles whose inventively naughty behavior fascinates both parents. The narrator sets out for her first parent-teacher conference eager to meet Charles' mother. The teacher remarks that Laurie has had some trouble adjusting and his mother blames it on Charles' influence. The teacher is confused:
"Laurie usually adjusts very quickly," I said. "I suppose this time it's Charles' influence."
"Yes," I said, laughing, "you must have your hands full in that kindergarten, with Charles."
"Charles?" she said. "We don't have any Charles in the kindergarten."