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Life Among the Savages Paperback – October 1, 1997
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Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Life Among The Savages by Shirley Jackson was released in 1953. It is very funny,and a great tale of a family who moves to Vermont from New York City. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Amazon Customer
Shirley Jackson has been one of my favorite authors for some time. Many of the stories in this book you have probably read if you have read any of her short stories. Read morePublished 1 month ago by apoem
The humour that every parent sees when placed in the constant company of tiny beings is truly evident and so well depicted in this book.Published 4 months ago by Ophelia B.
A fast read and quite entertaining. A step into the past, yet applicable to today. Reminds me of Kids Say the Darndest Things.Published 5 months ago by Cynthia Whaley
“I looked at the clock with the faint unconscious hope common to all mothers that time will somehow have passed magically away and the next time you look it will be bedtime. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kristi Richardson