The Letters of Shirley Jackson

Random. Jul. 2021. 656p. ed. by Laurence Jackson Hyman. ISBN 9780593134641. $35. LIT
Twentieth-century neo-Gothic novelist and short story writer Jackson comes to life in this accessible and revealing collection of letters. Lovingly edited by her son, Laurence Jackson Hyman, this volume contains the author’s correspondence from 1938 to just before her death in 1965. From her years at Syracuse University where she met her future husband Stanley Hyman, to her busy life as a mother and professional writer, Jackson chronicled her days with acerbic wit. In many ways, her letters are as cleverly crafted as her fiction; indeed, writes Laurence in his preface to the collection, “They are constructed like marvelous miniature magazines, full of news and gossip.” Jackson lays herself bare on almost every page, whether she’s confessing her budding love for Stanley (“i miss your funny hair. and your dimples”), or describing to her parents the endless chores of an author/housewife (“the dishes are still in the sink, stanley’s pants are not sewn where he ripped them, the animals are still unfed and so, in my usual fashion, i sit down to write you a letter”). Several of Jackson’s hand-drawn cartoons are included throughout, adding an extra layer of charm to this amusing and informative collection.
VERDICT At turns hysterical and heartbreaking, this collection is an entertaining and intriguing read even for those who are just discovering Jackson’s many literary gifts. Recommended.
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