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Life Among the Savages Kindle Edition
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In her celebrated fiction, Shirley Jackson explored the darkness lurking beneath the surface of small-town America. But in Life Among the Savages, she takes on the lighter side of small-town life. In this witty and warm memoir of her family’s life in rural Vermont, she delightfully exposes a domestic side in cheerful contrast to her quietly terrifying fiction. With a novelist’s gift for character, an unfailing maternal instinct, and her signature humor, Jackson turns everyday family experiences into brilliant adventures.
-Ruth Franklin, New York Times Book Review
"Charming…you’ll see every parenting stance you’ve ever adopted, every parent-story trope you’ve ever told or heard, expressed more perfectly than you ever could have…Reading Shirley Jackson, one of the great memoirists of family life, makes sharp those feelings once more—while reminding us that, yes, thank god and curse time, we too will one day look back on them across a gulf of years.”
-Dan Kois, Slate
"Many who profess an admiration for Shirley Jackson, often described as a 'writer's writer' do not usually include her thinly veiled memoirs of motherhood. But it is precisely these hilariously eviscerating, keenly observed, and genersou books that I and many other writers who happen to be mothers, adore.
"As warm as it is hilarious and believable...Never has the state of domestic chaos been so perfectly illuminated."
–New York Times Book Review
"When it comes to just sheer honest, wry, frustrated, finding-ways-to-appreciate-it writing about family life, we all sit at Shirley Jackson’s feet"
-New York Times Motherlode
"Very funny… Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons are each a good place to begin for those who have never read any Shirley Jackson.”
-The New Republic
"Jackson artfully loves and portrays her children. She writes of their fast growth into formidable personalities with dismayed narration and lovely direct quotes, all charmingly subjective. Her view of their sayings and doings is certainly sophisticated but far from cynical or objective."
"A housewife-mother’s frustrations are transformed by a deft twist of the wrist into, not a grim account of disintegration and madness, still less the poisoning of her family, but light-hearted comedy."
–Joyce Carol Oates
"Jackson isn’t all eerie uncertainties and lonely housewives. Those who know her work only from 'The Lottery' or Hill House may be surprised to discover that she could also be very funny...Jackson’s two lighthearted memoirs, are filled with droll observations and amusing mishaps."
–William Brennan, Slate
- ASIN : B00O2BS5UU
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reissue edition (May 5, 2015)
- Publication date : May 5, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 2748 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 242 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #311,697 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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But with Shirley Jackson at the wheel, there's usually a shiv or a shiver underneath the domestic goings-on. One housekeeper frosts her cookies with "Repent, Sinner"; another borrows a few bucks and flees town with her felon boyfriend. Another story has the kids all excited about their next visit to "Pudge" over the hill, where the children live beneath the water of the pond and an afternoon visit might take years . . . Sadly, due to multiple addictions to liquor, smoking, pills and even chocolate (obesity), not to mention likely overwork, the real Shirley Jackson did not live to see fifty. How fortunate we are to have not only her scary work but this supremely funny book and its sequel, RAISING DEMONS.
Shirley also disproves the theory that adverbs are always a sign of weak writing. With a comedy such as this, at least, she manages to use them to great effect. In fact, the adverb is often the knee-slapping moment in the sentence.
Highly recommended! Can't wait to read Raising Demons next. Also, the audio production for this is superb.
If you are looking for Shirley Jackson the writer in these pages, she is a will-o-wisp. You glimpse her once when she is registering at the hospital about to give birth to her 3rd child circa 1948 (asked her occupation, she says "writer," the administrator writes "housewife") and, presumably it was the writer trying to work who absentmindedly told her young daughter to give someone who came to the door a penny, not realizing it was the woman collecting the PTA dues. This book by far belongs to stories about her adventures as a mother and housewife. The kids are front and center. But you do see some of the inspiration for her vision of malfeasance lurking behind upright citizenry and everyday life in the sketches of her New England neighbors, and a teacher who takes her role as morality cop very seriously. And then there is the parade of dysfunctional household help. My favorite episode is the one in which Jackson takes her time setting up the scene of domestic organization almost like one of those old Reader's Digest logic puzzles (there are blue sheets in her son's room and pink in the baby's crib . . . .) and then traces everyone's peregrinations the night that the entire household was fitful with the flu, and awoke the next morning to complete and astonishing disarray.
What I come away with most is what a foreign country our culture was in the late `40s and early `50s. Jackson is a chain smoker, right through her pregnancies. She and her husband moved from New York to a small town in Vermont without knowing how to drive. They kept the local taxi in business. When they do get a car, it's not a matter of buckling car seats in the back but which squirmy small child may ride up front, before the era of seat belts. Her oldest son certainly wasn't wearing a helmet when he whizzed around a bend on a bike and into a car, sustaining, among other injuries, a concussion. In respect to the genre of domestic comedy, though, Life Among the Savages resembles "Modern Family" and "Malcolm in the Middle" far more than the other family comedies of its own generation.
I have enjoyed this book and her other collection of essays and short stories. Well worth the money. Enjoy.
Top reviews from other countries
This is the 1950's so parenting was a little more relaxed then, to put it lightly. No seat belts, cigarettes packed as part of your maternity bag, and other such facts, put this firmly in the past. Other stories, though, are still quite resonant. Like the time when Shirley's son comes home, claiming to have been attacked by another boy and she is pushed into calling the boys mother. After a fraught argument, the two find themselves standing the store the next morning and immediately agree at who was really at fault.
Although this shows a totally different side to Shirley Jackson, she retains her sharp wit in this. As when discussing how hopeless she was at housework and how utterly useless she was at getting help. One girl responded to, "an ad I put in the paper, and someone apparently read it to Hope," the author slyly remarks. Very Jackson.
From moving house, to a trip to a department store, bats, cats and chipmunks, I adored this book. I am pleased that the second book of memoirs, "Raising Demons," is going to be re-published next year on kindle and look forward to reading on. Shirley Jackson never fails to delight me.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2020