Friday, December 01, 2006

Mr. Harris

I know everybody else read this in high school, but I'm a late bloomer, so I just got around to reading Shirley Jackson's collection of dark, wonderful short stories, "The Lottery & Other Stories" this past week or so.

And I almost missed my subway stop four times.

She nuts, and I love here. Here are a few reasons why:

She makes you see the world in a new way -- today I overheard my landlord talking about an old lady who lives upstairs and I felt like I was in an SJ story. Suddenly everything is a fragmented narrative, each person is a repository of twisted up psychic urges that leak out in the most inappropriate ways.

She wrote a story about a jilted woman who stalks her man in a blue suit, and it's haunting and it's called Daemon Lover.

She seems to read seventeenth century witch-hunting texts for fun.

There's someone named Mr. Harris in almost every story.

She wrote the best one of the best milquetoasts in literature, David Turner. Seems a prototype for Jack Lemon's character in The Apartment, I wonder if he is.

The kids in her stories are mean and nasty, from the little boy who thrilled to the idea of eating his dead sister's head, to the little girl who refused to play the piano for the guests and called her grandma a liar.

Someone in one of her stories slaps a ventriloquist's dummy for being mouthy to a lady.

People are just so mean to other people -- they buy coveted books out from under them, they fire them for being too pretty (damn dried up old maids), drunks spurn charity ("I never served bad sherry to a guest; we're of two different worlds, madam") and, of course, they stone each other to death every June.

Ah, Shirley, what a twisted little world you created. I'm so glad I inhabited it for a week or so. And yes, Macy's' is awful, and New York will drive you crazy, and mixing whiskey and codeine is never a good idea, least of all when you're suffering from a toothache.


No comments: