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Life Among the Savages Paperback – October 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140267670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140267679
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Can this be the author of such chilling tales as The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House? An ordinary housewife stuck in a big, shabby house with three marvelous, demanding children and a charming husband who takes detached interest in the chaos they generate? Yes, it's Shirley Jackson all right: the precision of her observations and prose is familiar, even if her humor is something of a surprise. Not until Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions in 1993 would another woman write with such honesty about the maddening multitude of trivial, essential chores that constitute a mother's life. But Jackson nailed it first, 40 years earlier, in her hilarious chronicle of life in a small Vermont town, where getting the kids to school on time requires the combined gifts of a drill sergeant and a lady's maid. The saga of her son's bumpy adjustment to kindergarten, frequently anthologized as Charles, is justly famous, but Jackson's account of the Department Store Trip from Hell (two kids, two toy guns, one doll carriage and doll, mayhem in revolving doors and escalators) is even funnier. Although her memoirs are as merciless as her ghost stories, you may not notice because you're laughing so hard. --Wendy Smith

From Library Journal

Jackson, author of the famous The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery, here leaves her spooks behind to offer this portrait of horror of another kind?life in the suburbs. This 1953 volume presents her take on living in an old house in Vermont. Good fun of the Erma Bombeck kind.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco in 1919. She first received wide critical acclaim for her short story 'The Lottery', which was published in 1948. Her novels--which include The Sundial, The Bird's Nest, Hangsaman, The Road through the Wall, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House--are characterised by her use of realistic settings for tales that often involve elements of horror and the occult. Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages are her two works of nonfiction. Come Along With Me is a collection of stories, lectures, and part of the novel she was working on when she died in 1965.

Customer Reviews

Having read an excerpt of this one day, I was driven to track down my own copy.
Tracey Fleming (cteflem@flash.net)
There is a scene where she ends up raiding her children's piggy bank that keeps me in stitches while reading it and makes me smile whenever I think about it.
Cristal Shanda Lear
Sure, it is outdated but many of the absurd situations and attitudes still apply and it gives you a good middle class view of that period.
puffinswan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
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"Our house is old, noisy and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books . . ."
This is the beginning of the curiously powerful--and stealth-assault funny--LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES (1952), memoirs of a Mommy, a Daddy, and a powerhouse-ful of children who give up post-World War II's overcrowded Manhattan housing market for roomier digs in a remote Vermont town. These are certainly life-with-kids family memoirs of the late 1940s and early 1950s, but to leave it at that would miss the point--like saying that Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" is an anthropological study of a ritualistic New England town, or that THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a treatise on rafting the Mississippi River before the Civil War.
The author of LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES is, in fact, Shirley Jackson, and this is the first half of her two comic novels about life with small children. (The latter half being the later, and unfortunately more difficult to find RAISING DEMONS, published in 1957.) I'm not revealing too much to pass on that the hick town just happens to be Bennington, Vermont, the one with the all-female college; and that the harried Papa taught there. And when Mommy climbed into bed late at night "with a mystery" there's a good chance she was working on one of her own stories and a portable typewriter, a pack of cigarettes and a snifter of brandy climbed into bed with her.
In LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES, even the most please-don't-eat-the-daisies events usually hide a shiv or a shiver somewhere amidst the sitcom.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By puffinswan on October 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
I generally hate domestic plots or cutesy toddlers but Shirley Jackson, with her wry sense of humor, helped me to really like this book. Sure, it is outdated but many of the absurd situations and attitudes still apply and it gives you a good middle class view of that period. Recommended!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo VINE VOICE on October 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Shirley Jackson's wicked humour (don't miss the story of "Charles," for example) kept me laughing, and it was especially refreshing to step into a (let's face it, far more realistic) world where children could have a score of imaginary playmates (the family of Mrs Ellenoy), a son could be a bit of a discipline problem, the baby could eat a spider ... and no one ran to the self-help aisle or shrink just because kids were kids.
I had assumed that this was a biographical work, with the adventures just a bit exagerrated, until I read Shirley's (excellent) biography "Private Demons." Somehow, the stories were not as funny when I came to know that some of them were fiction, merely based on the children's traits.
This tale will never bore, and will give anyone a good dose of laughter. Perhaps those who now have children of the age which Shirley's were then will relax a bit realising that raising children was never a joy ride - but there is no need, today, to make it more difficult than it has to be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hal Johnson on May 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
At one time, Shirley Jackson was both the scariest and the funniest writer in America. This book may come as a surprise to fans of "The Lottery", but don't neglect it on that account; it's still vintage Jackson, complete with a rambling old house (this time not haunted). This is hands down the funniest book about raising children ever written; somehow it manages to treat children as surreal and other (the savages of the title) without ever being condescending. The sequal, _Raising Demons_, isn't quite as good, but is still well worth the read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. L. Golden on November 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Ms. Jackson's domestic fiction is unfairly lumped into the category of housewife humor dominated by Bombeck, Viorst, Kerr and company. While these scribes should be awarded fair due, their prose generates from the perspective of "normal woman" experiencing "everyday life" in mid 20th century America. Life Among the Savages and its sequel are the wry observances of an extremely rare mind whose life is anything but mundane.

Who else is asked to consider moving to a Vermont barn (Those stalls could be converted to bedrooms, suggests a Realtor) or a dwelling of petrified doughnuts when the NYC lease unexpectedly expires? Who else creates the criteria for an Olympic Event when faced with a live bat and a husband's air rifle? No one but Shirley quotes Shakespeare when facing a delivery room or charts her labor's progress by the newspaper her husband is (currently) hiding behind. No one gives her children the creative freedom to assume alternate identities while simultaneously herding them (with paraphernalia) through department store shopping. No one else is Shirley.

Life may be a little off kilter where a woman prefers to rob her children instead of pushing her furnace's power button and a family's restless night (my favorite) results in the baby possessing brandy, the dog asleep on the pillow and a quilt that vanished in perpetuity but it is not routine and neither is this book. Miss Jackson's work, as a whole, has resisted the categorization of literary critics. This book deserves no less. Enjoy the wry, detached tone of the narrator especially when a faint note of hysteria is detected in the narrative. Realize you have incorporated the sayings of her children into your family lexicon and give her the proper credit. But never label her domestic work as anything less than another branch of prose mastered by a gifted writer. If you do, I won't be responsible for the consequences.
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