The Letters of Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) is remembered for her peerless crafting of psychological suspense and horror short stories ("The Lottery") and novels (We Have Always Lived in the Castle). But she had another side: long before Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck, she essentially created the mommy blog genre with her affectionate and humorous magazine pieces on raising four children. This collection of nearly 300 lengthy letters spanning 27 years ranges in content from lighthearted family anecdotes to serious discussions of her writing process, family drama, writer's block, insomnia, agoraphobia, psychoanalysis and health problems.

The critical acclaim and popularity of Jackson's 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House finally brought financial security, but her marriage was precarious. A 1960 letter to her husband reads like a shotgun blast of pent-up frustration, anger and hurt. "I also do not believe you realize the brutality of your constant small reminders, to me and the children, of our insignificance," she writes. "You once wrote me a letter... telling me that I would never be lonely again. I think that was the first, the most dreadful, lie you ever told me."

While Jackson labored over her published prose, her massive missives seem to flow effortlessly. Yet, her letters captivate with the same sly, caustic humor, clever attention to detail and inventive phrasing that mark her best writing. At nearly 700 pages, readers are unlikely to find a book that moves with more assured swiftness than The Letters of Shirley Jackson. This is a bountiful offering fans will treasure. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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