Shirley Jackson is the Queen of Short Fiction

The whole cover creeps me out - from the stiff, aging hands to the fact that the library branch is Pleasant View! Nothing good can come from such a cover!

The whole cover creeps me out – from the stiff, aging hands to the ironic fact that the library branch holding such a book is Pleasant View! Nothing good can come from such a cover!

Sadly, before last week I’d only ever read the quintessential Shirley Jackson short stories “The Lottery” and “The Daemon Lover”. But then I started reading The Lottery and Other Stories, a collection of Jackson’s works, and I am 100% blown away. Every story is better than the last – and by better I mean more creepy, more disturbing, and more addictive. Even the cover disturbs me…to the point that I kept turning the book face down when I went to sleep. Which means that these stories are going to go over really well with my grade 12 students! It is going to be impossible to choose just one or two to teach during the tail end of our Modernist unit this year, so, I’m narrowing down my selections to a few – and hoping that you will give me some good feedback…or I swear, I WILL try to teach them all!

For each contender, I’ve including a VERY brief synopsis (to remind you) and my first response (for you and the next person to borrow the collection from the library:

SELECTION #1: “Like Mother Used to Make” (the best story in the collection, in my humble opinion)

Synopsis: David invites Marcia for dinner and asks her to make herself comfortable – which she does indeed.

Response: The clever writing of this piece and the ‘wicked’ actions of Marcia mark this as one of the best crafted stories in this collection. Awesome!


SELECTION #2: “The Daemon Lover”

Synopsis: an ‘old maid’ finally accepts an offer of marriage only to find her groom never arrives on the day of their wedding. And yet, everyone is complicit in convincing her he was on the way.

Response: this could be a great Sixth Sense styled movie featuring a dressed-down Nicole Kidman (think halfway to The Hours)!

The Daemon Lover

SELECTION #3: “The Renegade”

Synopsis: Mrs. Walpole’s dog has killed a whack of chickens. Everyone has ideas on how to solve the problem (and they are twisted!)

Response: The name says it all. Mrs. Walpole is the town’s other.

The Renegade by Shirley Jackson

SELECTION #4: “The Dummy” (my second favourite)

Synopsis: two dignified women go out for dinner and the accompanying floor show. The ventriloquist entertains but the real show stopper is the post-show drama.

Response: Ventriloquists and their dummies FREAK me out – but in this case the convention of using a dummy to share truths is really disturbing – as is the question: WHEN DOES THE PERFORMANCE actually end?

The Dummy by Shirley JacksonI loved this collection – and if you like short, tense fiction fraught with potential horrors, this is the one for you!






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Filed under Book Picks!, Books, Short Stories, Teaching Literature

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