Friday, January 14, 2011


Raising Demons, Shirley Jackson, Farrar Straus and Cudahy, 1957, 310 pp

 Shirley Jackson's follow-up to Life Among the Savages covers the middle years of her children's lives. I loved every page. She is a consummate writer. The family moves to a larger home, acquires more cats and dogs, while Shirley learns the mixed emotions that come with being a faculty wife.

 Once again I was amazed  at the amount of humor and true affection for children that she brought to this further account of her family life. It is such a contrast to her spooky novels and the troubled characters she created for them.

 Though I only had two children our house was always full of neighborhood kids. I also ran a daycare for a while. So I was right at home with the barely controlled chaos she describes. Her four children are as precocious as ever and she brings their characters to full life, especially in the way she has recorded their speech.

 A huge amount of sheer energy propels this book. I got the sense of a woman driving a run-away buggy, just barely hanging on, who can only laugh at the crazy life she is having. Singlehandedly, she created a whole genre carried on by Jean Kerr and Erma Brombeck, not to mention Ayelet Waldman.

 The final chapter is an account of their family Christmas: the hiding of gifts, the last minute special mail order, the decorating of the tree and the joy of the kids. It was so moving that I wanted to start a family all over again. Parenthood is possibly one of the hardest jobs in life and while Ms Jackson had as hard a time as any mother, I salute her for capturing the frustrations, rewards and humor of it all.

(Sadly, Raising Demons is out of print. I found it at my local library. It is also available at Powells.)

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