Just an Ordinary Day

I always though Shirley Jackson wrote The Lottery – one of the 20th century’s most anthologized short stories – and The Haunting of Hill House, then died at the age of 48 and it was all a terrible waste of an enormously promising career. Wrong.

This woman wrote. In her short life – and while she was married with children – she published six novels and dozens of short stories. Just an Ordinary Day is a collection of 22 of these, as well as 30 that never saw the light of day. (Talk about a work ethic.) Reading them is to be taken back to a time when magazines featured short stories as a matter of course. Something to be read at the hairdresser’s, or in the doctor’s waiting room, or on Saturday morning after finishing the shopping.

Don’t dismiss them for that though. They’re good. Some are funny. Some are ‘horror’ stories (the category she’s usually dumped into thanks to the success of the film The Haunting) but most are unsettling little tales, packed with clever insights into the shadows in post-WW2 US suburbia. (Twin Peaks before Twin Peaks was a gleam in the imaginations of Mark Frost and David Lynch – but without the overt sex and violence.) They’re also all very readable which, given the market they were written for, shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Shirley Jackson was an artist. A genuine artist. This collection is a major exhibit in the case for the defence.

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