‘All the time that I am making beds and doing dishes and driving to town for dancing shoes, I am telling myself stories,’

Shirley Jackson’s biographer, Ruth Franklin, discusses the unexpected and complex ways in which the author’s experiences of motherhood fed into her writing.

‘Jackson had always had an imaginative, even magical mind, filled with witchcraft lore, myths, and fantasies of her own devising. Hyman, ever a rationalist, had limited patience with that aspect of her character, tolerating no suggestion of religion and scolding her for believing in ghosts. In response, she turned to her children, who became happy participants in her fantasy life. After Sarah had a series of dreams about an imaginary country, Jackson encouraged her to draw maps of it and make up languages spoken there, as she herself had once done with her own fantasyland. When 8-year-old Laurence asked his mother how he ought to spend a dime, she suggested he give it to the birch tree in front of their house. He promptly went outside and asked the tree for a dime’s worth of wind. To Jackson’s delight, a massive hurricane struck that night. “All we could figure was that wind must be very cheap indeed for him to get that much for a dime,” she wrote to her parents.’

Read the full essay, which is adapted from Ruth Franklin’s book Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, at The Cut via the link below:


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