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The Sundial ()

This is an especially appropriate book to read as we stand poised on the edge of a new millennium.  An odd assortment of kin and hangers-on gather in a gothic mansion as, initially drawn by the lure of the family fortune, they get drawn into a sort of group apocalyptic psychosis.  They end up burning an extensive library of books to make room for the food and supplies they are stocking up on and spend time their time planning out future mating arrangements, to guarantee the continuance of the race, and writing their own differing accounts of what is happening.

This may not be one of Jackson's greatest works (see reviews of The Lottery and We Have Always Lived in the Castle), but as always, the story can be read either straight, for its entertainment value, or as a palimpsest, with hidden meanings lurking just below the surface.  It could be a comment on religion or on 1950's nuclear hysteria or on any number of things; Jackson simply provides a creepy tale, delivered with wit and style, and it's up to readers to draw their own conclusions.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

Shirley Jackson (3 books reviewed)
Shirley Jackson Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Shirley Jackson
    -ESSAY: My Life With R.H. Macy: Shirley Jackson's short stint with the department store (Shirley Jackson, December 22, 1941, New Republic)
    -PODCAST: Charles by Shirley Jackson (Cultured Bumpkin)
    -ESSAY: Shirley Jackson: celebrating 75 years of taut, ambiguous, disturbing stories (Bernice M. Murphy, June 25, 2024, The Conversation)
    -ESSAY: Stranger Than Fiction: The Paranormal Researcher Who Inspired Shirley Jackson (Michele Debczak, Oct 27, 2022, Mental Floss)
    -ESSAY: SHIRLEY JACKSON GETS A JOB AT MACY’S (New England Historical Society)
    -ESSAY: 12 Chilling Facts About Shirley Jackson's 'The Haunting of Hill House' Anna Green, Oct 11, 2018, Mental Floss)
    -INTERVIEW: ‘The Letters of Shirley Jackson’ Is the Autobiography We’ve Been Waiting For: Laurence Jackson Hyman, son of author Shirley Jackson, talks to Shondaland about her new book and his mother’s literary legacy. (Sandra Ebejer, 8/20/21, Shondaland)
-ESSAY: Shirley Jackson and the Unsettled Mystery of Life: On the disquieting fiction of the author of “The Lottery” and the chronicler of James Harris. (BILL RYAN, OCTOBER 21, 2021, The Bulwark) -ESSAY: Why Shirley Jackson is a Reader’s Writer: On the Brilliance of We Have Always Lived in the Castle and the Intimacy of Everyday Evil (Jonathan Lethem, February 24, 2021, Lit Hub)

Book-related and General Links:
    -BIO: (Brighton HS, Rochester, NY)
    -BIO: Life and Work
    -The Shirley Jackson Page (American Women Writers)
    -The Haunted World of Shirley Jackson  (Donna Dedman)
    -Shirley Jackson (Most Web)
    -ETEXT: The Lottery Shirley Jackson (1948)
    -ESSAY: A Reading of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (Peter Kosenko)
    -ESSAY: the haunted hearth (margaret quamme, George Jr.)
    -SHORT STORY: What a Thought by Shirley Jackson (Book Wire)
    -Monstrous Acts & Little Murders: A new collection of unpublished stories betrays the two faces of Shirley Jackson, the writer who created "The Lottery."  (JONATHAN LETHEM, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Dark Thoughts Shirley Jackson (Paula Guran, Dark Echo)
    -The Irrepressible Individual in the Works of Shirley Jackson (Eran Mukamel)
    -REVIEW: Private Demons The Life of Shirley Jackson By Judy Oppenheimer (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: PRIVATE DEMONS The Life of Shirley Jackson By Judy Oppenheimer (Elizabeth Frank, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Just An Ordinary Day By Shirley Jackson. Edited by Laurence Jackson Hyman and Sarah Hyman Stewart (Joyce Carol Oates, NY Times Book Review)
     -ESSAY: THE HAUNTING OF SHIRLEY JACKSON  (Judy Oppenheimer, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Term Paper: Shirley Jackson  Life and Work