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Life among the savages ; Raising demons by Shirley Jackson (1998-05-03) Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1806
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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.
Jackson is known for literally scaring the daylights out of her readers, however, in her memoir she does quite the opposite. She paints the picture of a life that is chaotic at times, which is expected raising children and trying to manage a career at home (her writing), all the while with a somewhat aloof husband.
Picture a Leave it to Beaver-esque setting where things might look just so from the outside but inside, Jackson cleverly inserts her wry humor to show us that at any moment she might be taken over by her army of children, school clothes shopping that will make you wish you could take her into the future of online shopping, meals to cook that she would rather not, or a furnace about to break, array of books about to topple, or “the husband” also known as “their father” who seems like an accessory they can get on with or without.
Jackson was ahead of her time in many ways. Exhibiting a free-range parenting style, being a WFH woman. And, if the internet had been invented, no doubt she would have teased her book on insta for others to take deep sighs of relief, knowing that they too need not be engaged in mommy wars and instead, spend some me time in a room of your own and the dishes can wait until morning.
Off to read the follow-up, published a few years later, RAISING DEMONS, which is sure to be as delightful.
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.
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