Best Book of the Week!
Although I almost always enjoy stories by Shirley Jackson, I was surprised and delighted to find myself even more captivated by the personal essays included in the collection Let Me Tell You. The book is divided into several sections, some of short stories, some of essays.
The first set of uncollected and unpublished short stories was interesting, although many were not her best. There were some bizarre or macabre stories, but the ones I enjoyed most seemed to be based on her own real-life preoccupations, a couple, for example, dealing with a professor’s affairs with his students. Her husband was quite the philanderer, apparently.
The essays, though, were centered around her home life and were funny and imaginative. Some are about the behavior of her children and the chaos of family life. In others, she imagines scenarios such as her toaster and her waffle iron having a feud because she toasted a frozen waffle. Or her two-pronged fork competing with her four-pronged fork. These essays are much more domestic than I expected, more whimsical, and funnier. I am now interested in rereading Life Among the Savages, her memoir about her family life.
The last section of the book consists of essays on writing. I found myself absorbed by this section. I have read several books on writing, but they seldom include any advice that I found practical. Jackson’s essays include some very specific information about how she writes that I found revelatory.
I never thought I’d prefer essays to stories, but in this case, although the stories are enjoyable, I found the essays more entertaining and engaging.