Tuesday, April 11, 2017

the last book I ever read (Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, excerpt eleven)

from Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin:

It took time for Jackson to make her way into this genre: a few early attempts at New Yorker-style humor fell flat. As with her fiction, she found true inspiration after the children’s arrival. Starting with “Charles,” the story about Laurence blaming his own kindergarten misdeeds on an imaginary classmate, Jackson discovered a lucrative market for her household stories in women’s magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Home Companion, as well as in general-interest publications such as Harper’s and Collier’s. In these pieces—many of which were incorporated into Savages—Jackson essentially invented the form that has become the modern-day “mommy blog”: a humorous, chatty, intelligently observed household chronicle. Before Jean Kerr’s Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1957) or Erma Bombeck’s At Wit’s End (1967), she brought something of an anthropologist’s eye to her tribe of “savages,” treating “the awesome vagaries of the child mind,” as one reviewer put it, with a combination of “clinical curiosity, incredulity, adoration and outrage.” (In a line reminiscent of “The Lottery,” the same reviewer noted that “[t]his tribe lives among us; its jungle is everywhere.”) No one had written about life with children in quite this way before.

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