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What We’re Reading – Shirley Jackson Edition!

Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): Shirley Jackson must have disliked taking the bus as much as I do. In her world, public transportation is the domain of fitful dreaming, uncanny companions, and hallucination. The price of a ticket may very well be one’s sanity.  In “The Bus,” which I think is one of Jackson’s most frightening tales, the peevish Mrs. Harper finds herself on a very unpleasant journey. Left at the wrong stop, in the middle of a thunderstorm, she is forced to accept a ride to the nearby roadhouse in Ricket’s Landing. The town could be some sort of underworld or maybe old Mrs. Harper is just caught up in her own fears and imaginings. As in much of Jackson’s work, the dangers build slowly and I’m not always sure why I’m creeped out, just that I am. This is a story that comes to my mind again and again. Each time, I’m both glad and terrified.

Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor):  My favorite Shirley Jackson story is “The Witch”. People will talk on and on about The Lottery but Jackson’s short story “The Witch” is, for me, much more disturbing, elegant, and strange. Be brave! Go read it tonight.

Lauren Perez (Tin House Marketing Intern): Come Along with Me: Classic Short Stories and an Unfinished Novel by Shirley Jackson. It’s fall, so it’s time to read Shirley Jackson again. It’s always time to read Shirley Jackson—from the sentence level up, she’s a fantastic writer—but there’s something especially bittersweet about her comic, creepy unfinished novel Come Along With Me, about a widow and medium who spins free after her painter-husband’s death and remakes herself in an unnamed city. It’s funny enough to make you snort with laughter on the bus and the ending (or lack thereof) gestures towards so much promise and richness. Like Fitzgerald’s Last Tycoon or Dickens’ Edwin Drood, it’s a piece that invites obsessing puzzling over what happens next. The collected stories that follow are a great consolation, too.  Particularly if you like your consolations shadowed and spooky.

Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): In September, I finished reading Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages and this week I dipped back into Shirley Jackson’s Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected StoriesI’m blown away by the range of this collection—the opening stories had me laughing and the last stories (written in the period just before Jackson’s death) left me checking the locks on my doors.  One that just won’t let go is ”The Story We Used to Tell,” about two young women trapped inside a picture on a wall. ”The Story We Used to Tell” is weird, wild, and wonderfully Jackson.

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