Friday 27 October 2017

RIP XII Book the Fourth: Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

I loved this book so much I want to bounce a whole lot just at the thought of it. I think I've practically read a Shirley Jackson book a year since RIP became a thing in my life, and whilst I've had some mixed results (in summary- her short stories > her longer works) I still loooove her more than almost anyone. I didn't think I could love her even more but THEN I read this book.

THIS. BOOK. As the title suggests, this is a short story collection of, you know, dark tales and MY GOD are they dark (and quite literally perfect). My best best best thing about Shirley Jackson is that she finds the darkness in the everyday, or rather takes the everyday and makes it, well, terrifying. So, with this book, you have the woman who is just hanging out with her husband one evening when she has the sudden and irresistible urge to smash him over the head with an ashtray. I won't tell you how that one ends, but Jackson brings settings that we could all easily see ourselves in, and adds thoughts or ideas that we don't want to think we're capable of, but that we probably are.

That's maybe why it's so unsettling.

This book is really all killer and no filler though. I mean for reals, I don't think I've ever ever read a short story collection where I loved every story, but Jackson has finally won that prize. Whilst I don't think that any of the stories have beaten The Lottery as my favourite (THE LOTTERY IS SO GOOD)  it's a collection that The Lottery could easily slot into because they're all so equally... nasty. But nasty in the FABULOUS sense, in that their characters are us, and they are nasty because, you know, humanity.

It's been a few weeks now since I finished the book, so whilst I can't remember all the stories exactly (me, a fine and respected blogger, take notes? What is this madness you speak of?!) I CAN remember more than I would if the collection had only been half as good. Jackson's stories tend to linger, making you feel uncomfortable and uncertain for longer than you care to admit. There is a very short story about a woman, just a normal woman, who one night has the urge to smash her husband's head in with an ashtray, and one about a 'respected townswoman' who is stirring up trouble in all of the townspeople's lives with her poisonous letters. There's one about a mysterious honeymooning couple, and one about a girl who runs away, only to find out that she really can't go home again. It's a very specific kind of horror, very rarely supernatural, but scarier than that because you know that this could really happen. Hell, it already has.

With this book, Jackson has just really surpassed everything else I've read by her. I know I have quite a limited amount of her work left to read which makes me really sad, but I'm also so happy to have discovered her, too. I read The Lottery every year (at least once a year, tbh) in the autumn, and I think this book might have to join it too. IT IS JUST SO GOOD YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO.

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