Shirley Jackson centenary: a quiet, hidden rage


Born 100 years ago today, Shirley Jackson wrote stories filled with nameless dread that still speak to women’s anger

I first encountered Shirley Jackson through a single short story, “The Daemon Lover”, which I read when I was 12 without knowing any of her other work. Later, I rediscovered the story, along with the rest of Jackson’s writing, and became a fervent admirer of this brilliant and (at that time) much underrated American author.
In some ways, “The Daemon Lover”, from a 1949 collection is a typical Jackson story. An unnamed woman of 34 (though only 30 on her marriage certificate) wakes up on the day of her wedding to a man called James Harris. Impatiently the woman waits for her fiance to arrive, drinking cups of coffee and obsessing over trivia – her choice of dress, the flowers, the light meal she is planning after the ceremony. Hours pass, and at last it becomes clear that the fiance is a no-show. The woman, who does not know where he lives, leaves her flat in search of him, asking locals for a James Harris in hope of resolving the misunderstanding; after a Kafkaesque sequence of increasingly paranoid encounters, she ends up in front of an apartment door, behind which she can hear voices, but which, Continue reading