18 Apr 2018


Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected StoriesJUST AN ORDINARY DAY by SHIRLEY JACKSON.

A college student receives a diabolical visitor. Two little girls watch a child through a bedroom window. Malice and poison lurk beneath an elderly lady's perfect rose bushes ... A shudder runs through many of the stories in this collection from Shirley Jackson. From twisted tales of modern Bluebeards and Jack the Rippers to poetic fables and wry family dramas, Just an Ordinary Day shows the remarkable range of her writing, capturing the unease behind everyday American life with glittering brilliance.
- Back Cover Blurb

Several years ago, a cartoon of cobwebbed files discovered in a Vermont barn more than a quarter century after our mother's death, arrived without notice in the mail.
- First Sentence, Introduction

The page that told about the lamb chops was also the page that told about lemon meringue pie, and was thoroughly stuck to the next one. I had to put the lamb chops down to separate the pages, and the only place I could find was the windowsill, and I had opened the window to let the odor of burning crust out, and, anyway, I suddenly smelled something else burning, and when I leaped to see what it was I joggled the package of lamb chops on the windowsill, and there I was. Mallie came over to the window beside me and looked out.

'Well,' she said, 'your lamb chops, down there on the sidewalk. From here,' she added severely, 'they don't look like first cut lamb chops, either.'
- Memorable Moment, Page 65: Dinner for A Gentleman

SOURCE ... A Reading Group read.


MY THOUGHTS ... First up, an admission. I rarely, very rarely, read short stories and if this particular collection hadn't been the March choice of the Reading Group I attend I wouldn't have given it a second glance.

Still, who knows, in Shirley Jackson I may have discovered my new favourite author ... after all isn't that the beauty of reading groups? To read that which you may not have given a passing thought to before.

Normally put off such selections because I'm greedy and rarely come away from a short story (even a good one) feeling fulfilled and/or as is more often the case, given the confines of the short story I, all too often, find the characters underdeveloped at best, totally undeveloped at worst. However, the least of my worries, I'm afraid I found Just an Ordinary Day ...

Surprisingly juvenile. Many of the stories (and certainly all of those in part one, the 'unpublished stories') were undated and as such one could only guess as to the exact age of the author at the time of writing but I found a considerable number to be structurally awkward, full of cliches and generally lacking in the maturity I would have expected from someone so acclaimed. 

Worse still ... left feeling? Left feeling, what? Bewildered? Perplexed? With an uncomfortable feeling of 'huh'? Apologies if I'm not expressing myself very well here, I can only say I found myself scratching my head several times whilst reading. 

Regarded by many as a collection of witty, romantic comedies, of tales that ' reveal an eerie juxtaposition of good and evil', of vignettes with a humorous take on suburban life, married couples and troublesome children. Perhaps a window to the times in which they were written but, as it is, sadly I merely found them outdated, dull and, on occasion, bizarre.


Suko said...

Tracy, thank you for your honest review. You had your reservations at the start, and they remained until the end.

Kelly said...

I do enjoy short story collections on occasion and I remember studying her story entitled "The Lottery" when I was in school. I recall it was quite good and very creepy. A shame these didn't live up to that one.

Brian Joseph said...

Too bad the stories were a bit weak ax the plot descriptions sound good. I also do not read that many short stories, but I always say that I will read more in the future.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Hm... this sounds like you found it interesting and baffling at the same time. Sometimes that is good and sometimes bad. I think I would be put off by it feeling outdated but I do think you have me intrigued. Brilly review! :D

Anonymous said...

I, too appreciate your honest and
excellent review. Though contrary
to you I like short stories.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I have the worst luck with short story collections.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Greetings Tracy. Sorry you didn't enjoy the short stories much. Blessings to you.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew.