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Reviewed in the United States on September 5, 2011
I absolutely love "Come Along With Me", & wish we'd had even just a few chapters more. The character of Angela has progressed nicely from the likes of her forebears Eleanor & Merricat...she is what you would expect had we been able to see those two reach middle age with some semblance of sanity; quirky, self-absorbed, & desirous of starting over somewhere where each can reinvent herself. No one today writes "isolation" quite like Jackson did, & in Angela's all-too-brief chapters, we see Jackson moving on from characters suffocated by their lonely, imploding worlds to THIS character: decisively striking out on her own after the death of her condescending husband, the cessation of her all-too-quiet, backward life on the farm, and the realization of her personal freedom (She repeatedly makes a point of telling us she has "plenty of money", because you can't have freedom without that!). It is in the self-invention of Angela Motorman that we delight; & in each test of character, good or bad, that Angela gives herself. Oh, I bemoan the unfairness of Jackson having gone from us at so great a stage in her writing career (& will continue to moan about it, forever)!
As others have commented, a great many of the book's short stories are stirring and a bit soul-shaking in that smooth way that Jackson elevated to an art form. I may be one of the few reviewers who felt a tremendous fondness for "A Visit", Jackson's elegant little "ghosty" homage to her friend (and secret crush?) Dylan Thomas. Guess I just love a tall, handsome ghost that looks like pretty much everyone alive around him, & hangs out with the gang so that you can hardly tell he's otherworldly, until you land in the midst of his ancient love story & fall more than just a little in love yourself. Jackson doesn't write that brand of romance often. Here she keeps it sparing and graceful, & it makes me wonder--& feel a bit hopeful--about what really went on between Thomas & herself in the throes of their friendship.
I particularly thrilled to Jackson's essay, "Experience & Fiction", where she rewrites a student's commonplace short story "out of the air", inventing characters & subplots & gestures that draw you in completely to her revision...it's written so that you can almost SEE the revising being done in front of you. No sleight-of-hand in the construction at all, but plenty of magic in the finished product.
As a longtime Jackson fan, I naturally had to have this book! But whether fan or not, it should be read! You might be 1 of the 2 people in the known universe who have never run across "The Lottery", & it's here too. Don't miss out.
Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2007
Shirley Jackson was once told that even if she never wrote anything except "The Lottery" she would be remembered forever. Indeed, who can forget the first time they read this story and its shocking, sinister ending? "Come Along With Me" includes not only this classic story, but several of Jackson's other writings as well (short stories, essays, an unfinished novel), which prove Jackson's great talent and unique genius.
Yet, what is it that makes Jackson's work so effective and provocative? Few authors have her talent for tapping into our fears and fantasies quite as well as Shirley Jackson. After dangling the promise of joy and happiness in front of us, she cruelly snatches it away and show us a dark parody of our own dreams. We see this time and time again in Jackson's work, especially in several of the stories collected here. In "Summer People", a married couple's long-awaited extended holiday becomes a nightmare of isolation. In "Beautiful Stranger", a woman is miraculously freed from an abusive husband, but loses herself in the process. In "The Bus", an elderly woman finds pain in childhood memories just when it seems she needs them the most. And, In "I Know Who I Love" a woman finds that even after the deaths of her unloving, overprotective parents, she is still very much within their control. In short, there are few happy endings in Shirley Jackson's world.
This is a great collection for Jackson fans as well as those who might not be too familiar with her work. The only bad part, a few of her early stories are a little weak compared to the later ones. All in all, this book is still well worth checking out!
This book is a fitting testament to Shirley Jackson, as the selections span her entire literary career. It is tragic that a writer of Jackson's caliber should be called away during her productive years, but we are quite fortunate to be allowed a taste of the novel Jackson was working on when she died. That taste is a short one, consisting of six chapters (roughly 27 pages), the final three of which are the first draft. The protagonist is a thoroughly Jacksonian character, sometimes spontaneous and sometimes nostalgic, making a new life for herself in her own peculiar way. Her attempts at shoplifting are particularly telling of her character, but unfortunately her story ends at just about that point. The other stories included here are a special treat. While "The Lottery" is included (just in case someone may not be familiar with it, as Jackson's husband tells us in his preface), the other stories are poignant looks into the lives of rather ordinary people. Jackson had an amazing talent for characterization; the smallest actions can tell us more about a person than his/her overt actions and words, and such little things make Jackson's stories incredibly vivid, illuminating, and personal. Shirley Jackson was a wife and mother whose writing always took second place behind her family. Many of these stories center on family life in all its aspects. "The Beautiful Stranger" and "A Day in the Jungle" deals with the sense of unfulfillment and unhappiness that one partner may come to feel in his/her marriage, "The Rock" speaks to the strength of a brother-sister relationship, "Island" is a somber story about one's end-of-life years. "Pajama Party" is a simple tale of a young girl's birthday slumber party. The story sounds so much like real life that it could be a neighbor telling you about it firsthand; it is also the funniest story Jackson ever wrote There are darker stories where characters become "lost," hopeless, and frightfully alone--"The Bus," "The Little House, "A Visitor" (which is a strange ghost story of sorts). The best stories here, in my mind, are "Louisa, Please Come Home," which has a uniquely Jacksonian twist of the prodigal son motif, and "I Know Who I Love," which illustrates the fact that parents can be much too overprotective of their children. The true highlight of this book, though, are the three "lectures." One gives Jackson's response to the old "where do you get your ideas?" question. Another one addresses the techniques of writing effective fiction. My favorite, though, is an essay describing the reaction of readers to the publication of "The Lottery" in New Yorker Magazine. Jackson includes comments from all sorts of readers, almost all of it negative, which she breaks down into three different categories. While "The Lottery" is certainly an original, successful story, I cannot imagine that so many people would have been so affected that they felt compelled to put their shock and disapproval into words. The responses that Jackson describes to us offer a vivid look at American culture at mid-century. If you are a Jackson fan, you (should) already own this book. If you want an introduction to Jackson, the stories included here will certainly delight you and win you over to Jackson's unique way of telling stories. These stories clearly reveal Jackson's humanity and family devotion, and the reader comes away with great respect for the author as both a writer and as a human being.
It is a shame that Shirley Jackson died before finished what most certainly would have been her most provocative novel, yet we are lucky that a small portion exists. But, if you don't like cliffhangers (even though this one is on purpose), you'll be disappointed. However, the book contains much more than just the unfinished novel; it is a collection of some of her best short stories and lectures. "The Lottery" is included as is a "biography" of the story displaying some of the reactions received by the shocking story. Other stories such as "Pajama Party" and "A Day in the Jungle" show her talent for the human side, innocence and all. "The Rock" is just as haunting as "The Lottery" and is perhaps even more disturbing. A book for writers, COME ALONG WITH ME also includes several of Jackson's lectures regarding her ideas on the creation of short stories and their value as literature. This is definitely a book for those wanting to become more familiar with Jackson's spellbinding work.
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2002
Shirely Jackson was a gifted writer who deserves to be regarded with the same prestige heaped upon Ray Bradbury and others. Come Along With Me, a posthumous collection gathering together early works with lectures and a novel fragment, not only allows readers to shiver and giggle as only Ms. Jackson could make us do, it also offers the reader an intimate glimpse into the creative process (compare the sharp focus in the revised segments of Come Along With Me with the somewhat blurred unrevised sections) and, by printing short stories in order of their publication, the growth of Ms. Jackson's considerable talent for the intelligently ghoulish can be seen and savored. As with her other, more famous stories (i.e The Haunting of Hill House), it is what is implied in the methodical unfolding of the tales that makes for the chills rather than in your face grue. This book, along with Jackson's others, is an essential in any literature loving bookworm's library. Highest recommendation.
Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2016
This is a wonderful book with many short stories, an unfinished one, and a few helpful reviews on how to write a good short story. All the stories are well written, carrying you from word to word, until the story is finished, and you get upset because it finished so quickly. A true testament to a wonderful writer! A must have or at least a must read.
The unfinished novel _Come Along With Me_ is wonderful; too bad so little of it exists. And the stories here are great, too. As far as Shirley Jackson's uncollected stories go, this is the book to pick up.