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Life Among the Savages Paperback – May 5, 2015
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
If you are looking for Shirley Jackson the writer in these pages, she is a will-o-wisp. You glimpse her once when she is registering at the hospital about to give birth to her 3rd child circa 1948 (asked her occupation, she says "writer," the administrator writes "housewife") and, presumably it was the writer trying to work who absentmindedly told her young daughter to give someone who came to the door a penny, not realizing it was the woman collecting the PTA dues. This book by far belongs to stories about her adventures as a mother and housewife. The kids are front and center. But you do see some of the inspiration for her vision of malfeasance lurking behind upright citizenry and everyday life in the sketches of her New England neighbors, and a teacher who takes her role as morality cop very seriously. And then there is the parade of dysfunctional household help. My favorite episode is the one in which Jackson takes her time setting up the scene of domestic organization almost like one of those old Reader's Digest logic puzzles (there are blue sheets in her son's room and pink in the baby's crib . . . .) and then traces everyone's peregrinations the night that the entire household was fitful with the flu, and awoke the next morning to complete and astonishing disarray.
What I come away with most is what a foreign country our culture was in the late `40s and early `50s. Jackson is a chain smoker, right through her pregnancies. She and her husband moved from New York to a small town in Vermont without knowing how to drive. They kept the local taxi in business. When they do get a car, it's not a matter of buckling car seats in the back but which squirmy small child may ride up front, before the era of seat belts. Her oldest son certainly wasn't wearing a helmet when he whizzed around a bend on a bike and into a car, sustaining, among other injuries, a concussion. In respect to the genre of domestic comedy, though, Life Among the Savages resembles "Modern Family" and "Malcolm in the Middle" far more than the other family comedies of its own generation.
This is a delightful and wickedly funny book and perfectly describes a mother's life in the 1950s if you can suspend total belief for a while. Shirley Jackson writes with such love and forbearance about her daily life with her children and her work-at-home-but-how-is-that-possible husband that it is not too long a stretch to imagine her writing The Lottery and her other books which include a fair amount of domestic descriptions themselves.
Most of Shirley Jackson's books, including this one, have never been out of print, and, as is usually the case, there is a reason for that: they are such good books!
I have enjoyed this book and her other collection of essays and short stories. Well worth the money. Enjoy.