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Publisher's Summary

A bewitchingly brilliant collection of never-before-published letters from the renowned author of "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House

i must stop writing letters and get to writing a novel.

Shirley Jackson is one of the most important American authors of the last hundred years and among our greatest chroniclers of the female experience. This extraordinary compilation of personal correspondence has all the hallmarks of Jackson’s beloved fiction: flashes of the uncanny in the domestic, sparks of horror in the quotidian, and the veins of humor that run through good times and bad.

i am having a fine time doing a novel with my left hand and a long story - with as many levels as grand central station - with my right hand, stirring chocolate pudding with a spoon held in my teeth, and tuning the television with both feet.

Written over the course of nearly three decades, from Jackson’s college years to six days before her early death at the age of 48, these letters become the autobiography Shirley Jackson never wrote. As well as being a best-selling author, Jackson spent much of her adult life as a mother of four in Vermont, and the landscape here is often the everyday: raucous holidays and trips to the dentist, overdue taxes and frayed lines of Christmas lights, new dogs and new babies. But in recounting these events to family, friends, and colleagues, she turns them into remarkable stories: entertaining, revealing, and wise. At the same time, many of these letters provide fresh insight into the genesis and progress of Jackson’s writing over nearly three decades.

The novel is getting sadder. It’s always such a strange feeling - I know something’s going to happen, and those poor people in the book don’t; they just go blithely on their ways.

Compiled and edited by her elder son, Laurence Jackson Hyman, in consultation with Jackson scholar Bernice M. Murphy, this intimate collection holds the beguiling prism of Shirley Jackson - writer and reader, mother and daughter, neighbor and wife - up to the light.

©2021 Shirley Jackson (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A work of art in its own right...as vivid and subversive as her fiction.” (Chicago Review of Books)

The Letters of Shirley Jackson offers so much more than a simple peek behind the curtain of one of the most important literary lives of the 20th century. Her letters are full of warmth and insight while displaying her uncompromising wit and talent, as well as a melancholic, haunted vulnerability.... A book to be cherished and reread.” (Paul Tremblay)

“[Jackson’s] fiction, full of misanthropy, madness, and murder, tends to be viewed through the lens of her personal torments and, more generally, of the misogyny of the age. What is striking about Jackson’s letters, however, is that while they testify to pretty outrageous domestic double standards...they show very little sign of unhappiness. The mood of the missives is buoyant, garrulous, and eager to amuse, and while Jackson often seems stressed and exasperated, she’s rarely despairing.... The labors of domesticity and artistry are fused in these letters in a way that seems to me unique.” (The Wall Street Journal)

"Many writers feel that the self who writes exists in a partially unknowable state, separate from the self who goes about her worldly business, talking with friends and colleagues, cooking dinner, ferrying her children around. With Jackson, the division seems especially vivid.... [Here], the inner world that writes gives voice to the outer world that doesn’t.” (The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about The Letters of Shirley Jackson

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Edited by her son to exclude all marital strife

Shirley Jackson's abusive relationships with her husband and mother were massive contributing factor to her life and work, as well as her mental and physical health. All of that is omitted here, very much like reading the society column instead of the front page when world War III has been declared

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Shirley Jackson was a force

Perhaps there will be a book with more letters from both sides of the conversation or her letters will be printed in their entirety but this book (and its narrator) brought her wit and charm and strength into my life and I am forever changed.

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Outstanding

Highly recommended to all fans of Shirley Jackson. I read the biography first which I found helpful in appreciating her letters. The reader was excellent. One of the very best audible selections.

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Family Life

When I realized that most of these letters were written to Jackson's parents I was disappointed. Where was the literary gossip you'd expect from a writer of her stature? Instead of recounting feuds, she wrote about her children, and her quiet life in Vermont. As the book progressed, I found myself entranced. It turned out that I liked keeping up with her four kids, each of whom was unique and interesting. Jackson was a good mother--an all-time great one, maybe-- and that's what the book is ultimately about.