cover of let me tell you by shirley jackson

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

I’ve always sought out stories about families – by birth or by choice – over the years.

I’m talking about Shirley Jackson’s “Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings” (paid link). I found myself commiserating with her stories about her family and the goofy stuff they’ve had to suffer through together.

Even something as silly as who left the hose out.

I got to thinking why I gravitate towards stories about fictional families and not-so-fictional ones.

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Is there a universal truth about being a part of a family? Not that I don’t enjoy stories about orphans – though there is always a glut of those. But I think it’s because everyone has a story to tell.

I didn’t have the idyllic family life like Ms. Jackson and her husband gave to their kids. I won’t comment on the destruction of their marriage, because that’s not what the book is about.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Leo Tolstoy

I grew up in a military family. There were long stretches where Dad was over there. Wherever over there happened to be. He couldn’t be there for my birth; he was on the ice in Antartica.

What hits me like a ton of brick about this collection is that all families are the same. No matter what your station. You have the annoying older brother, girly-girl kid sister, the dog who slobbers on your things, and you happen to also live in a creaky old house that moans and creaks during windy days.

I enjoyed this collection immensely. It gives you a peek into the mind of a brilliant writer. It shows her writing process in bits and pieces and how the bits and pieces of a mundane family life influenced the work of hers that we know and love.

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