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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Backlist Not To Miss: Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories (The Lottery / The Haunting of Hill House / We Have Always Lived in the Castle)In this installment of "Backlist Not to Miss" I wanted to highlight one of my favorite writers, Shirley Jackson.  Last year, the Library of America released Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories , with an introduction by Joyce Carol Oates, honoring the work of Jackson.

Before I go any further, I have to say that if you have never read Jackson's story, "The Lottery," stop reading this post, click here, read it, and come back.  Seriously.  Go! It is one of the best short stories ever written (horror or not).

Jackson's writing is an atmospheric and menacing blend of psychological suspense, horror, and dark fantasy.  These are stories that make you squirm without graphic violence.  They are character driven stories with a more literary style than her genre peers.

Jackson's work was ignored by critics for quite sometime precisely because she was so hard to pigeon hole into a genre.  She wasn't literary enough, but at the same time she wasn't horror enough either.  But her work has stood up to the test of time as Oates points out so well in Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories.

One of the things that has helped to renew interest in Jackson's writing is the fact that popular fiction has caught up to her.  Writers in all genres are adding psychological and dark fantasy elements into all of their books.  However, while works like Jackson's are becoming more popular they are still just as hard to pigeon hole, so in 2008, the Shirley Jackson Awards were started to honor, "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic."

For a full list of winners released in 2007, 2008, and 2009 use the links I have provided.  Titles that came out in 2010 are being considered right now and will be announced at Readercon 21 this summer.

If you like Joyce Carol Oates, Joe Hill, Alexandra Sokoloff, Sarah Langan, Sarah Waters, or Peter Straub you should try Shirley Jackson.

For the full Backlist Not to Miss archive, click here.

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