Friday, February 18, 2011

"Your Story Has Kicked Up Quite A Fuss Around The Office" - The Library of America's Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories

The Library of America collection, Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories, is an initial disappointment. Editor Joyce Carol Oates, normally so prolific, is surprisingly silent here.

There is little to suggest in this volume as to Oates' own distinct persona: no introduction, no endnote, no homage. This is remarkable because, in rereading Ms. Jackson's works, the Princeton professor seems to owe a great deal to the woman whose short story "The Lottery" still scares high school sophomores all over the country.

Both women have an unique upstate New York voice. Oates was born and grew up in Lockport, N.Y. Jackson, born in San Francisco, graduated from a Rochester, N.Y. school. Both share an alma mater: Syracuse University. The outsider aspect of being from New York but not a part of the New York that the rest of the world sees (New York City) formed both writers' mischievous identity.

Oates has written extensively on Jackson previously; here is her New York Review of Books take on  We Have Always Lived in the Castle, one of the two novels contained in the LOA book, and my favorite of Jackson's works.

Ultimately, the disappointment at a lack of Oates here is brief. We are reminded that Shirley Jackson, who passed away in 1965 at a too young 49, is a signficant writer. The Library of America, a nonprofit publishing company whose mission statement is to "preserve America's best and most significant writing" seems to have a match made in gothic heaven with Oates and Jackson, and the volume prompts again that Jackson is long overdue for some serious respect in the literary canon.

Hers is the latest installation in the Library's roster which includes the likes of John Steinbeck and William Faulkner. Would the Vermont writer, imprisoned in the close environs of Bennington College (neither she nor her husband drove) be delighted at the inclusion? I hope so. Or perhaps she would have just shrugged her shoulders, lit a cigarette and started a new story, hopefully one that would pay well.

Review continued here: