cover image The Letters of Shirley Jackson

The Letters of Shirley Jackson

Edited by Laurence Hyman. Random House, $35 (656p) ISBN 978-0-593-13464-1

The life of Shirley Jackson (1916–1965)—as a mother and a writer—emerges in vivid detail in this collection of correspondence, edited by her son Hyman (Let Me Tell You). The letters begin with Jackson at college writing to her future husband, Stanley Hyman. As the couple marries and starts a family, missives describe her burgeoning writing career and the comic escapades of being a mother. Primarily written to her agent and parents, the letters hit a high note in 1953, when the then-bestselling author and mother of four wrote to her parents that it was “the best year we’ve ever known.” But by 1955, Jackson’s downhill slide had begun: she got colitis and her health was failing, her marriage began to collapse, and her agoraphobia worsened. Two poignant letters were left unsent: one to Stanley, outlining the pain his womanizing, disregard, and mockery caused her—“indifference breeds indifference”—and another to her parents, reacting to their criticism of her appearance. Her cartoons, one of the most charming elements of the collection, also chronicle a marriage in decline. Full of wit and heartbreak, this volume shines, and Jackson’s singular prose never fails to entertain. Agent: Murray Weiss Agency, Catalyst Literary Management. (July)