“Writer Shirley Jackson will be best remembered for her horror story “The Lottery,” but there was a lot more to her, as Franklin shows in this lively biography.”
Featured in LA Times’ Best Non-Fiction Books of 2017.
Although Shirley Jackson is known to millions of people for her book ‘The Lottery’, she cannot be found in the canon of mainstream American literature. Jackson used psychological horror and literary suspense to probe deep into the cultural anxiety that plagued post-war America – farther than anyone had gone before. Ruth Franklin delves into the inner darkness and volatile life of the author who penned such works as ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ and ‘The Haunting of Hill House’.
Franklin puts Jackson into the Gothic tradition of America that goes all the way back to Poe. In doing so, she details how Jackson was a unique contributor to this genre because of her concentration on ‘domestic horror’. Jackson’s non-fiction and fiction works were already exploring how women, especially married women, were exploited and isolated twenty years before The Feminine Mystique kickstarted the feminist movement.
Jackson is shown as a determined, singularly creative and incredibly talented writer who rose to fame in a time when women generally had to choose between their family and their profession. She was married to Stanley Edgar Hyman, who was a famous New Yorker critic and had four children. On the surface, everything seemed peaceful and calm in her life. However, as her creativity expanded and grew and her career bloomed, her marriage came under strain, she became prone to anxiety and got addicted to tranquilizers and amphetamines. Franklin shines a light on her relationships with her mother and husband, neither one of which was as functional as it seemed.
Franklin uses new interviews and letters that were only discovered recently to explore Jackson’s life and talent, making her biography the last word on Jackson.