The year of Shirley Jackson actually began the year before. In my stack of Christmas presents was a copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and when I read the first few pages, I was done for. It is, to me, a Perfect Book, beautiful and meandering and dangerous and sad -- the kind of book that seems so right & that you love so much you wonder how on earth you it didn't find you before.
And thus the year of Shirley Jackson began. It wasn't planned or organized, I just ended up spending most of 2015 reading everything that is even remotely in print. And just when I'd run out, a collection of mostly uncollected things came out near the end of the summer (Let Me Tell You) so that was nice timing.
Shirley Jackson is so modern. She belongs with us, now: unconcerned about what is highbrow or lowbrow (in her influences or her work.) Uncaring for the divisions between what is important (capital-L) Literary fiction & what is genre writing, just fiercely herself. I think Jonathan Lethem talks about that in the lovely introduction he wrote to the Penguin Classics edition of We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
She reminds me of my beloved Angela Carter in that way -- wild hearted, but feet firmly on the ground. Both with rare, magical minds but also earthy and wry and funny as hell. Amateur witches who thought about fairy tales and vampires a lot but also raised babies and gave the side-eye and laughed, I presume, all the time. And though they both have beloved novels, they might be, above all, masters of the short story, of small moments and self-contained worlds. You could do much worse than The Bloody Chamber & The Lottery for desert island material.
If I were to create my own Essential Shirley Jackson (and I've given it a lot of thought) I've landed on a fat little volume comprised of one novel, one set of memoir stories & one set of short stories: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Raising Demons (which I really prefer to Life Among the Savages, and which contains a beautiful story about clothespin dolls) & then, finally, The Lottery collection of short stories (especially Flower Garden & Seven Kinds of Ambiguity.)
Though I hate to leave out Hangsaman, if only for weirdness' sake.
I also love her writing-about-writing, the few essays & lectures collected in Come Along with Me & Let Me Tell You. She is, in her advice and prescriptions about craft, as she as always appears to me, utterly enchanting but utterly real.
And people who are both are in such short supply.