Shirley Jackson, Charles
Before I start this review, I have a technical question. Does anyone know why advice to bloggers about maximising your site always say not to use something like “here” for a hyperlink but, rather, to add the link to the actual name of what is being linked to? In other words, to make the link so – Shirley Jackson’s Charles – rather than so – Shirley Jackson’s Charles can can be read here? I have done both but I have tended to prefer the “here” approach when I ammaking a link to the actual text of the item I am reviewing. Otherwise, the chances are – and this has happened – that the blog’s readers miss it because they will not know that the link under the title is the actual story and not just a link to an article about (or a source to buy) the story. My preference is to go for the unambiguous approach – but is there are really BIG reason why I shouldn’t? Enquiring minds – well mine anyhow – would love to know.
Anyhow, on to what will be a brief review of this week’s Library of America story. It’s by – well, if you’ve read the first para you’ll know by now – Shirley Jackson. Another American writer I’ve never heard of! Apparently she is best known for her “tales of psychological horrow” (LOA introductory notes) but this one that they’ve presented to us,” Charles”, is an ordinary domestic life story. It was published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1948 and, again according to LOA, “is one of the first of her numerous semi-autobiographical stories of life as a 1940s housewife raising children who sometimes seemed one step outside her ability to control them”.
Well, that certainly seems to the the case in “Charles” because it is clear that the young protagonist of the story has it all over his parents. It’s a nice little story but rather predictable. I’d be surprised if any experienced reader didn’t “get” it some long time before the end. This spoils the story a little – although perhaps Jackson is playing a game with the reader, willing us to see what the parents clearly don’t? Whatever her intentions, it nicely shows the wiliness of children and the gullibility of many parents. I think though, that to properly assess Ms Jackson, I should read one of her psychological tales rather than this little slice-of-life piece.