Author: Shirley Jackson (Edited by Stanley Edgar Hyman)
Published: February 26th 2013 by Penguin Classics ( First published 1968)
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK!!!
The collection of short stories has various themes with Gothic and psychological being the main ones. I particularly enjoyed “The Beautiful Stranger” which was about a married woman, Magaret who was dreading the trip to the train station with her two children to pick up her husband returning from a business trip. As the story progressed, I gathered that her husband is mean, and the flames are dying out in their relationship. But wait, a stranger stepped out of the train resembling her husband and he seemed to know everything (well, almost everything) about Margaret. Even her son addressed the stranger as “Daddy” so who is this stranger? The first thought that came to my mind was that Margaret’s husband had a split personality and she preferred this version than the other but I guess I’ll never know who exactly is that “stranger”. At the end of the story, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Margaret’s house and the stranger and her kids didn’t actually exist at all.
The incomplete novel, Come Along With Me, was absorbing. I was pulled into the story from the first page. The story takes on a conversational tone which made me feel as if Mrs Angela Motorman was just opposite me, having cookies and tea and telling me all about her life after the death of her husband. The title is really appropriate as I was pulled along with her.
The rest of the short stories were a little creepy, just the way I like it. They weren’t straight out scary but as I read them, I feel an occasional shiver down my spine. The impression that I may feel the supernatural stuck on me even after I have finished the book.
In the foreword by Laura Miller, she likened the stories by Shirley Jackson to that of Neil Gaiman, and I agree completely with her. Some of her stories makes no sense and yet seems completely logical at the same time. I love stories like that: they are so bizarre and so entertaining. If you have read Neil Gaiman’s “A Calendar of Tales”, you’ll know what I mean. Both Shirley Jackson and Neil Gaiman writes stories with words that seem to flow effortlessly. They make the writing and reading process fun. I think I’ve just become another fan of Shirley Jackson.
Three lectures were included in this book. The second lecture, “Biography of a Story”, made me laugh, what with all those letters Shirley Jackson received following the publishing of her short story “The Lottery”. The comments added into the lecture, apart from giving the reader a taste of what would ensue if on wrote stories out of the ordinary, also served as a prelude to the actual story which comes after the lecture. I, on the contrary, found “The Lottery” hugely entertaining, at least here is something grotesque and interesting, something different from my usual reads.
The final lecture, “Notes to a young writer”, was originally meant for the author’s daughter, Sally, who wanted to be a writer. It is also educating for aspiring authors or amateurs. It contains examples, situation and how to grab the reader’s attention.
I’ll just end my ramblings here. This is probably the longest review I’ve typed but I was so hyped up after completing this book.