Come Along with Me by Shirley Jackson (1968)

Come Along with Me by Shirley Jackson

Come Along with Me is the novel Shirley Jackson (1919 – 1965) was working on at the time of her untimely death in 1965 at the age of forty-eight. This unfinished novel was collected in the book of the same title: Come Along with Me: Part of a novel, sixteen stories, and three lectures, and edited by Stanley Edgar Hyman, her husband at the time of her death.

Known for her stories and novels of psychological terror, including The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson didn’t leave behind a huge body of work but what she did produce was hugely influential.

Jackson also published two memoirs of motherhood and family life, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, believed to be highly idealized versions of the messy reality of the Jackson-Hyman brood in their ramshackle Vermont home. Nevertheless, these works, too, influenced a tradition of “momoirs” carried on by the likes of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck.

Notably, the Come Along with Me collection includes “The Lottery,” the short story that catapulted Jackson to fame (and notoriety), and with it, a transcript of a lecture Jackson gave about it called “Biography of a Story.”

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Shirley Jackson

Learn more about Shirley Jackson
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This description of Come Along with Me is from the 1968 Viking Press edition:

Come Along with Me is the title of the unfinished novel on which Shirley Jackson was working at the time of her death in 1965. A completed draft of the brilliant first section of that novel begins this posthumous collection of Jackson’s fiction and lectures as selected by her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, from pieces for the most part previously unpublished in book form.

Mr. Hyman has chosen a representative sampling of Jackson’s short stories, ranging from eerie encounters with the supernatural, as in “The Rock,” (on of five stories in the collection never before published anywhere) to lighthearted descriptions of “raising demons,” as in “Pajama Party.”

With characteristic deftness she pinpoints the idiosyncrasies of young women, repressed and precocious, of old women dreaming in their senility, of the understated but savage battle between country people and city interlopers.

Admirers of We Have Always Lived in the Castle will welcome further investigations into the mysterious effects of houses on people, in such tour de forces as “A Visit” and “The Little House.”

The collection concludes with three lectures on the subject of writing, including another story about life in the Hyman ménage with which Jackson used to end her lecture on “Experience and Fiction.”  Also included, as the focus for a lecture called “Biography of a Story” is “The Lottery,” perhaps her best known short story.

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Come Along with Me by Shirley Jackson
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In his Preface to the 1968 Viking Press edition, Stanley Edgar Hyman wrote:

The fourteen short stories [in this collection] were chosen from about seventy-five not previously collected, as the best, or those best showing the range and variety of her work over three decades …

“Janice” must be one of the shortest short stories on record. Shirley Jackson wrote it as a sophomore at Syracuse University, and it was printed in Threshold, the magazine published by her class in creative writing.

My admiration for it led to our meeting. I suppose that I reprint it to some degree out of sentiment, although in its economy and power it is surely prophetic of her later mastery.

The three lectures are those that Shirley delivered at colleges and writers’ conferences in her last years. “The Night We All Had Grippe” is printed after the lecture she used to conclude with a reading of it, although it appears as a section of Life Among the Savages; it gets somewhat lost in that book, and I find it the funniest pieces since James Thurbers’ My Life and Hard Times.

“The Lottery” is printed after the lecture that customarily concluded with it, because of the possibility, however remote, that there are readers unfamiliar with it.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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The publisher’s description of Come Along With Me concludes: “The adjectives most often applied to Shirley Jackson’s fiction were haunting, eerie, bizarre, cryptic, and magical.” Jackson’s work showed her mastery of the psychological thriller.

Today, her work might be deemed less shocking given how popular the genre remains. Her writerly craft was singular, judging by how many contemporary writers, including Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, point to her as an influence.

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