Two Rare Shirley Jackson Stories Released This Week


NEW YORK (AP) — Shirley Jackson had a knack for conjuring up the depths of anxiety in the space it would take to sum up a baseball game.

Two very short, never-before-seen stories, “Charlie Roberts” and “Only Stand and Wait”, appeared this week in the summer issue of The Strand Magazine, which featured obscure works by William Faulkner, Mark Twain and many others. ‘others. ‘Charlie Roberts’ is a tense conversation between a married couple over dinner plans, while in ‘Only Stand and Wait’ a blind man has surgery and will soon be able to see, but wonders if he made the right decision. .

“Like many of Jackson’s works, both of these stories carry heavy unspoken insecurities,” Strand editor Andrew F. Gulli wrote in the new issue.

Jackson’s son and literary executor, Laurence Hyman, calls the two undated stories “vignettes” she likely wrote in her twenties during one of her daily writing sessions. Jackson, who died in 1965 at the age of 48, was a prolific writer who wrote eight novels and hundreds of stories, the best known of which is “The Lottery”. She left behind a substantial amount of unfinished and/or unpublished work, including some that Hyman and her sister Sarah Hyman Stewart helped compile for the posthumous collections “Just an Ordinary Day” and “Let Me Tell You”. .

It was a house dedicated to the production of words; Jackson’s husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, was himself an author and writer for The New Yorker. Laurence Hyman has vivid memories of returning home and listening to her parents at work.

“She was a very fast typist, and when the two were on their typewriters, the sound was really punchy. It was like machine gun fire,” he said. “You would hear a burst of typing, then a brief pause, then another burst.”

Jackson researcher Darryl Hattenhauer, an associate professor of American studies and English at Arizona State University West, thinks the two plays could have been starting points for longer narratives. But each works as a story in its own right, with a common theme of the outside world that is perhaps best kept at bay.

In “Charlie Roberts”, the main character is never seen, but left a pocket knife with an unnamed couple. In just a few hundred words, in a dialogue about who to invite to dinner, Jackson suggests a background of infidelity and mistrust, briefly alludes to a previous separation in the marriage, and asks the husband to question himself about the need to have guests.

“Why do we have to know people anyway? Can’t we be satisfied on our own? »

“We are never satisfied on our own,” the woman replies with a laugh. “We have to have people to bother us.”

The title of “Only Stand and Wait” comes from a poem by John Milton, who laments his blindness – “my days in this dark world” – but accepts his fate and concludes “they also serve those who only stand and expect”.

In Jackson’s story, an unnamed man sits in his doctor’s office, blindfolded. Blind from birth, he is about to see for the first time. But instead of feeling joy and gratitude, he worries that his lack of sight has somehow protected him.

“I will be in the world right away,” the man said. “I will be with everyone, I will live with them and I will see them too.”

Even the doctor’s promise to proceed slowly cannot reassure him.

“Don’t take the bandages off yet, doctor. Leave me a little longer,” he said. “Please, doctor. I think I want to be blind a little longer.

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