Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

A Rather Haunted Life

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Still known to millions primarily as the author of the "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) has been curiously absent from the mainstream American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense and psychological horror, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America more deeply than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author of such classics as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Placing Jackson within an American Gothic tradition that stretches back to Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on "domestic horror." Almost two decades before The Feminine Mystique ignited the women's movement, Jackson' stories and nonfiction chronicles were already exploring the exploitation and the desperate isolation of women, particularly married women, in American society. Franklin's portrait of Jackson gives us "a way of reading Jackson and her work that threads her into the weave of the world of words, as a writer and as a woman, rather than excludes her as an anomaly" (Neil Gaiman).

The increasingly prescient Jackson emerges as a ferociously talented, determined, and prodigiously creative writer in a time when it was unusual for a woman to have both a family and a profession. A mother of four and the wife of the prominent New Yorker critic and academic Stanley Edgar Hyman, Jackson lived a seemingly bucolic life in the New England town of North Bennington, Vermont. Yet, much like her stories, which channeled the occult while exploring the claustrophobia of marriage and motherhood, Jackson's creative ascent was haunted by a darker side. As her career progressed, her marriage became more tenuous, her anxiety mounted, and she became addicted to amphetamines and tranquilizers. In sobering detail, Franklin insightfully examines the effects of Jackson's California upbringing, in the shadow of a hypercritical mother, on her relationship with her husband, juxtaposing Hyman's infidelities, domineering behavior, and professional jealousy with his unerring admiration for Jackson's fiction, which he was convinced was among the most brilliant he had ever encountered.

Based on a wealth of previously undiscovered correspondence and dozens of new interviews, Shirley Jackson--an exploration of astonishing talent shaped by a damaging childhood and turbulent marriage--becomes the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary giant.

Publisher: New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, c2016
ISBN: 9780871403131
Branch Call Number: B JACKSON SHIRLEY Fran
Characteristics: 607 pages : illus. ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Apr 22, 2017

I had never heard of SJ or any of her writing, now I'd like to get to know it. I enjoyed the audio version much more when I got to the last chapters. Although Jackson is of several generations beyond me, I could relate in so many ways. I kept thinking 'why is this intelligent woman sleepwalking' ?

Jan 30, 2017

Wow! Excellent riveting detailed bio of Shirley Jackson's life and works. An incredible amount of research went into this. I loved it!


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at PLYMC

To Top