In Defense of Shirley Jackson

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Salon’s Laura Miller attempts to contextualize the work of Shirley Jackson (her “parton saint of oddballs”) within the American canon. Jackson, most famous for her story “The Lottery” (which you probably read in high school), was, Miller suggests, too “gothic” to be grouped alongside the curt realism of the Great 20th Century American (male) Novelists (Bellow, Roth, Updike, etc).

Miller proposes that Jackson was excluded from the club not because she was any less capable, serious or entertaining, but because her prose was too “claustrophobic.”  The Great Male Novelists wrote “expansive,” sweeping and purposefully ideological novels, which proved much easier to sanctify as “great” and “American.”  As Miller says, Jackson, like her characters, “never quite fit in.”


Daniel Gumbiner is a student at UC Berkeley. He has lived in Chile and Argentina. He blogs with his brother, David, at smartwool.tumblr.com More from this author →