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Cover of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
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Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

By: Ruth Franklin

Publisher: WW Norton

Imprint: Liveright

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780871403131

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Electronic | Audio | Trade Paperback
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This long-awaited biography establishes Shirley Jackson as a towering figure in American literature and revives the life and work of a neglected master.Still known to millions only as the author of the "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) remains curiously absent from the American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America better than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author behind such classics as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.Placing Jackson within an American gothic tradition of Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on "domestic horror" drawn from an era hostile to women.Based on a wealth of previously undiscovered correspondence and dozens of new interviews, Shirley Jackson, with its exploration of astonishing talent shaped by a damaged childhood and a troubled marriage to literary critic Stanley Hyman, becomes the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary giant."Shirley Jackson is unparalleled as a leader in the field of beautifully written, quiet, cumulative shudders." --Dorothy Parker, American poet, author, critic, and satirist
I said that I enjoyed this book for all the wrong reasons, and what I mean is that I found in it a character far more compelling than its title's subject. Jackson's husband was the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, and he emerges as a dazzlingly charismatic blend of boor and genius.... Much of Jackson's writing is a weird, rich brew, and Franklin captures its savor. I may have been captivated by Stanley Hyman's personality, but after this biography, I will go back and read Jackson herself.
—San Francisco Chronicle
As a literary critic, Franklin serves as an insightful guide to Jackson's writings, as well as the evolution of her work over time, draft to draft and book to book.... Franklin's portrait of this master is taut, insightful, and thrilling, in ways that haunt, not quite as ghost story, but as a tale of a woman who strains against the binds of marriage, of domesticity, and suffers for it in a way that is of her time as a 1950s homemaker, and in a way that speaks to what it means to be a writer, an artist, and a woman even now.
—Boston Globe
The value of Franklin's book, which benefited from access to archives unavailable to [Judy] Oppenheimer, is its thoroughness and the way she traces Jackson's evolution as an artist, sensibly pointing out what's autobiographical and what isn't. She 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.
—New York Times
Franklin's biography of Jackson provides a well-written, well-considered and enjoyable opportunity for those of us who recall the pleasures of reading Jackson to go out and enjoy her all over again; it also helps make up for the poor scholarly attention her novels and stories have received since her death.
—Los Angeles Times
A RATHER HAUNTED LIFE is a richly detailed, fascinating, often heartbreaking look at Shirley Jackson's important contribution to American literature and a fitting tribute to an incredibly compelling and sometimes troubled genius. Vastly entertaining, well-organized and readable, this is a book that does justice to one of our most important and talented modern writers.
—Bookreporter.com
“Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life,” a new biography by Ruth Franklin, 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.
—Seattle Times
“I must lose that sense of inferiority,” the 15-year-old Shirley chided herself in her diary, “but not go so far as vulgarity, and, above all things, I must cultivate charm, and ‘seek out the good in others, rather than explore for the evil.' ” Ruth Franklin, in her sympathetic biography, points out that the quotation marks suggest a mother's well-meaning advice, the gist of which Geraldine would recapitulate in so many words for the rest of Shirley's brief and, yes, rather haunted life.... When she puts aside her brief for Jackson's ideological relevance, Ms. Franklin is a conscientious, lucid biographer, and her book is never less than engaging.
—Wall Street Journal
In “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life,” book critic and Guggenheim fellow Ruth Franklin painstakingly examines Jackson's extensive correspondence, diaries and interviews, as well as drafts of her work. This biography is no critical reassessment. It strongly affirms the American author's powerful collection of stories, novels and memoirs.... The press made Jackson a literary star at a time when, as a matter of course, men were paid more than women for their work in the magazine. While publishers had previously courted her husband, it was now Mrs. Hyman who held the spotlight. We should hope that Franklin's magisterial and compulsively readable biography will redirect that spotlight once again.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Franklin's research is wide and deep, drawing on Jackson's published and unpublished writings including correspondence and diaries, as well as interviews. Most crucially, she has had access to letters that Jackson wrote to a fan who became her confidante, letters highly revealing of her distressed state of mind. 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.
—Chicago Tribune
Ruth Franklin's sympathetic and masterful biography both uncovers Jackson's secret and haunting life and repositions her as a major artist whose fiction so uncannily channeled women's nightmares and contradictions that it is “nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era.”... Drawing on journals, diaries and unpublished fiction, Franklin builds up to an explosive ending, as Jackson recorded lurid nightmares, plotted murderous fantasies and planned her escape to “that great golden world outside” in which she would be independent and free.
—Washington Post
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