Short stories, essays, and an unfinished novel by Shirley Jackson, queen of American Gothic and author of “The Lottery.”
The collection opens with “Come Along With Me,” the novel that Jackson was working on when she died at the untimely age of 44. At about 33 pages, there isn’t much of a narrative, just a character study of an eccentric woman, drawn with Jackson’s signature idiosyncratic touch. It’s disappointing that she never completed the novel, because this fragment shows signs of being as complex and rich a work as the puzzling Hangsaman, my favorite of Jackson’s novels.
The stories that follow aren’t, in my opinion, as masterful as those found in The Lottery and Other Stories, but they’re still worth reading. My favorite was “The Bus,” where an elderly woman takes a bus ride into “Twilight Zone” territory. It’s terse and terrifying without being overstated.
Closing the collection are two lectures on writing and an essay on “The Lottery,” Jackson’s most famous short story, in which she discusses the spectrum of reactions to the story. The essays on writing are inspirational in a folksy sort of way, and offer great practical advice on story construction and harnessing the creative process. I will absolutely be rereading these.