Monday, April 17, 2023

And I Told You

It's felt nice to build up more of a reading habit again. For a while I was spending most of my commuting time playing crossword puzzles and word games on my phone, which is nice and all (especially when I only have a couple of minutes to kill between transfers), but I realized felt a lot less satisfying than getting through a book.

I recently picked up "Let Me Tell You," a collection of writing from Shirley Jackson. I mostly know her through her fairly Gothic chilling stories like The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived In The Castle: novels set in modern times that are invaded by more magical, unsettling forces. Jackson was a very versatile writer, though, and this collection was a great chance to get acquainted with other tones of her voice. There are a handful of similarly unsettling stories, but also a nice collection of her very early writing from the 1940s, revolving around the experience of young men going overseas and then returning home to anxious young wives.


It's probably the nonfiction that I responded to the most, though. Jackson was the mother of four children, and wrote a lot of really funny articles about her experience overseeing a very bustling household. In her own writing she comes off as somewhat frazzled, doing her best to maintain some level of order while being badly outnumbered.

The book ends with some thoughtful essays and lectures on the craft of writing. In one essay she seems to be arguing against the sparse voice of Hemingway-inspired writers, and makes an argument for the (limited and intentional) use of embellishment and symbols in a short story. She has a funny perspective of seeing the author and the reader as mortal enemies, with authors needing to take advantage of any dirty trick they can find to seize the reader's attention away from the television set and the dozens of other books at their fingertips. Other essays provide really intriguing glimpses into her in-progress work on her famous novels, and how she and readers interacted with one another.

Let Me Tell You wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I'm glad that it is what it is. I liked seeing more of her range, enough so that I'm tempted to check out 

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