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Shirley Jackson
Cover of Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson
A Rather Haunted Life
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Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography Winner of the Edgar Award in Critical/Biographical Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction A New York Times...
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography Winner of the Edgar Award in Critical/Biographical Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction A New York Times...
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  • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography
    Winner of the Edgar Award in Critical/Biographical
    Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction

    A New York Times Notable Book of 2016
    A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Pick of 2016
    An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016
    A Time Magazine Top Nonfiction of 2016
    A Seattle Times Best Book of 2016
    A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016
    An NPR 2016's Great Read
    A Boston Globe Best Book of 2016
    A Nylon Best Book of 2016
    A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2016
    A Booklist 2016 Editors' Choice

    In this "thoughtful and persuasive" biography, award-winning biographer Ruth Franklin establishes Shirley Jackson as a "serious and accomplished literary artist" (Charles McGrath, New York Times Book Review).

    Instantly heralded for its "masterful" and "thrilling" portrayal (Boston Globe), Shirley Jackson reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the literary genius behind such classics as "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House. In this "remarkable act of reclamation" (Neil Gaiman), Ruth Franklin envisions Jackson as "belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James" (New York Times Book Review) and demonstrates how her unique contribution to the canon "so uncannily channeled women's nightmares and contradictions that it is 'nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era' " (Washington Post). Franklin investigates the "interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women's history" (Chicago Tribune). "Wisely rescu[ing] Shirley Jackson from any semblance of obscurity" (Lena Dunham), Franklin's invigorating portrait stands as the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary genius.

 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Ruth Franklin is a book critic and frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Harper's, and many other publications. A recipient of a New York Public Library Cullman Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 23, 2016
    Literary critic Franklin (A Thousand Darknesses) renders a gripping and graceful portrait of the mind, life, and work of groundbreaking American author Shirley Jackson (1916–1965). Though Jackson is today largely known for the chilling novel The Haunting of Hill House and the supremely upsetting short parable “The Lottery,” Franklin brings forth her full oeuvre for careful study, including a prodigious number of short stories, books for young adults and children, and—perhaps improbably for a horror writer—two bestselling memoirs about life with her four children, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Franklin’s adept readings of Jackson’s influences, formative relationships, and major works interweave the obsessions, fears, and life experiences that charge her writing with such wicked intensity. Treating her subject with a generous eye and gorgeous prose, Franklin describes one of Jackson’s chief themes, a “preoccupation with the roles that women play at home and the forces that conspire to keep them there,” as a product of her cultural moment, identifying Jackson’s “insistence on telling unpleasant truths” about women’s experience and her ability “to draw back the curtain on the darkness within the human psyche” as the elements that make Jackson a writer of lasting relevance who can still give today’s readers an impressive shiver. 60 illus.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 15, 2016
    An engaging, sympathetic portrait of the writer who found the witchery in huswifery.Critic Franklin (A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, 2010) ably captures both the life and art of Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) in this sharp biography. Franklin presents her as the classic square peg: a woman who didn't easily fit in to midcentury America and a writer who can't be neatly categorized. Jackson was the ungainly, rebellious daughter of a socialite mother who never stopped nagging her about her weight or appearance. Later, she would be the neglected wife of an esteemed critic and teacher, Stanley Edgar Hyman, who all but flaunted his adulteries under her nose. It was an anxiety-ridden life, but she had the imagination to put it to good use. Her stories and novels involved people fighting losing battles with either themselves or society, whether they are usurped by the big city or run up against the barbarism of cozy small-town life--as in her classic story "The Lottery." She wasn't a witch, although she let people think so; rather, she was a harried domestic goddess who also wrote children's fiction, bestselling chronicles of life with Hyman and their children, and--further resisting pigeonholing--a masterpiece of horror fiction (The Haunting of Hill House) and a curiously comic novel about a young lady who poisons her parents (We Have Always Lived in a Castle). Jackson's life was both disciplined and devil-may-care; she ate, drank, and smoked like there was no tomorrow until finally, at the age of 48, there wasn't. Franklin astutely explores Jackson's artistry, particularly in her deceptively subtle stories. She also sees a bigger, more original picture of Jackson as the author of "the secret history of American women of her era"--postwar, pre-feminist women who, like her, were faced with limited choices and trapped in bigoted, cliquish neighborhoods. A consistently interesting biography that deftly captures the many selves and multiple struggles of a true American original.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2016
    Drawing on fresh interviews and previously unknown correspondence, book critic Franklin places Shirley Jackson in the American gothic tradition of Hawthorne and Poe while showing that the domestic horror saturating her writing was inspired by postwar anxiety and the era's scorn of aspiring women.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings A biography that is both historically engaging and pressingly relevant, Ruth Franklin's absorbing book not only feelingly creates a portrait of Shirley Jackson the writer but also provides a stirring sense of what it was like to navigate (and sometimes circumvent) the strictures of American society as a wife, mother, artist, and woman.
  • Sarah Churchwell;The Guardian Comprehensive...Jackson's lifelong interest in rituals, witchcraft, charms and hexes were, Franklin convincingly maintains, metaphors for exploring power and disempowerment...Franklin situates Jackson's conflicted relationship with coercive postwar US domesticity within the context that would give rise in 1963 to Betty Friedan's attack on 'the feminine mystique'...[A] sympathetic and fair-minded biography.
  • Jeff Baker;Seattle Times Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life . . . lifts its subject out of the genre ghetto and makes a convincing case that Jackson was a courageous woman in a male-dominated field whose themes resonate strongly today.
  • Blake Bailey;Wall Street Journal Franklin is a conscientious, lucid biographer, and her book is never less than engaging.
  • Kate Bolick;Bookforum To truly reclaim a legacy, it generally helps to have a big, penetrating biography, one that takes into consideration everything that's come before and pushes forward a new and improved interpretation. Ruth Franklin's excellent Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life is all that and more...Franklin proves to be a supple biographer.
  • Jane Hu;New Republic A Shirley Jackson biography seems especially timely today, even though Jackson, as with many of her stories, remains somewhat mythically timeless....Franklin's is both broader in scope and more measured in its analysis....[A] masterful account.
  • Neil Gaiman Ruth Franklin is the biographer Jackson needed: she tells the story of the author in a way that made me want to reread every word Jackson ever wrote.
  • Seth Lerer;San Francisco Chronicle Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life deftly narrates the influences, experiences and reputation of the author of the famously enduring story 'The Lottery.' As a history of the literary culture of the 1940s and '50s, it teases out the daily lives of people who displayed James Joyce's 'Ulysses,' Wilhelm Reich's 'The Function of the Orgasm' and James George Frazer's 'The Golden Bough' on their coffee tables. And as a chronicle of American life in the Eisenhower era, it reminds us of a time when people with too many books could be considered subversive...Much of Jackson's writing is a weird, rich brew, and Franklin captures its savor.
  • Charles McGrath;New York Times Book Review With this welcome new biography Franklin makes a thoughtful and persuasive case for Jackson as a serious and accomplished literary artist. . . . [Franklin] sees Jackson not as an oddball, one-off writer of horror tales and ghost stories but as someone belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James, writers preoccupied, as she was, with inner evil in the human soul.
  • Katherine A. Powers;Chicago Tribune Franklin's research is wide and deep, drawing on Jackson's published and unpublished writings including correspondence and diaries, as well as interviews....Franklin has shown the interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women's history.
  • Laura Miller;Slate [Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life] represents the latest and most concerted attempt to reclaim the writer's reputation. It's also a fresh effort to frame her as an artist with extraordinary insight into the lives, the concerns, and—above all—the fears of women...Gender is not the only prejudice that has kept us from acknowledging the brilliance of Shirley Jackson, but Franklin's biography is a giant step toward the truth.
  • Lauren LeBlanc;Minneapolis Star Tribune [Shirley Jackson] strongly affirms the American author's powerful collection of stories, novels and memoirs...Magisterial and compulsively readable.
  • Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs A perfect marriage of biographer and subject: Ruth Franklin's portrait of Shirley Jackson restores to her rightful place a writer of considerable significance, and draws a rich...

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