Shirley Jackson Day returns celebrating work 100 years after her birth
NORTH BENNINGTON >> She spent the last years of her life here, and referenced various village staples in her literature that still stands today. The community will celebrate local writer Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) on June 27 on the day of "The Lottery."
The annual event has occurred for about 10 years and is hosted by Blue Rider Events in partnership with The Bennington Bookshop and the John G. McCullough Free Library. There will be a reading of her works by her children, J.S. Holly and Barry Hyman at The Left Bank.
One hundred years after Jackson was born, her legacy lives on and new work continues to be released. A collection of unpublished works, "Let Me Tell You," and other essays and stories was edited by two of her four children and will be released, as well as a new biography by literary scholar Ruth Franklin coming out in September. All of Jackson's books are also now currently available in print. Jackson's grandson Miles Hyman, a professional artist in Paris, has illustrated a graphic novel version of "The Lottery," and it will be released in October. Other productions such as a ballet, musical, television series and films are amongst the projects still being generated in honor of Jackson's legacy.
"Lots of local people are proud of her work. It's a little different every year. Last year her biographer spoke, which is coming out this summer," Hyman said. "This year, my sister and I will read some of her short stories."
Jackson's children decided to publish her unseen work just because they had assumed it was already out there, until they discovered more papers and uncollected stories in the Library of Congress. They used story titles to name the recently released books.
"The wealth of material prompted us to put out the books, within the last two years, 'Just An Ordinary Day' and 'Let Me Tell You,' Hyman said, "when we realized how much of it existed and how good it was."
Jackson is most known for her short story "The Lottery," which was published in The New Yorker in 1948, and "The Haunting of Hill House," which was twice adapted into a feature film. The Hyman family moved to North Bennington in 1945 when father Stanley was offered a teaching position at Bennington College. Jackson's titles "Life Among the Savages" (1953) and "Raising Demons" (1957) reveal aspects of the town. The first published after the move was "The Road Through The Wall" (1948.)
She typically utilized humor and horror in her writing, but also touched on feminism before it was a hot topic, Hyman said.
"One of the things she did that's completely unique is she wrote you can see it as divided into two different styles," he said. "You open the story and you don't know if it'll be a ghost story or a hilarious one about a girl cooking in the kitchen. Part of it is that she's two different trends that people found unreconcilable. In retrospect, a lot see her work as feminist before feminism was a thing, with no conscious statement of it. Much of it deals with the pressures on women, particular anxieties that plague women, lonely women, or housewives, burden of housework. Part of the upsurge of her popularity in recent years has to do with a lot of feminists discovering that she was talking this long before anybody."
All four children have always been involved in Jackson's post-life productions and own her copyright, but recently, her son Laurence retired and became their full-time literary agent.
"It's tremendous pride and joy. I get great satisfaction. My siblings, we're just overjoyed to have people reading her work. I first read stuff of hers when I was 10 and now I'm 64," he said. "The subtle humor still shines through to me. It's never far from the surface. We're just enormously proud and pleased more people are discovering her."
Jackson's older children grew up in North Bennington and remember the town as much different from today. Myles Hyman even spent the first few years of his life there and portrays Jackson-esk, somber themes in his art.
On Shirley Jackson Day, the Bennington Bookshop will be present to sell her titles. From 5 to 7 p.m., the McCullough Library will show a selection of Jackson artifacts.
For more information on the event, contact the Left Bank at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 802-681-7161. It is free and open to the public, and starts at 7 p.m.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.
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