41. Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson – Judy Oppenheimer
The “private demons” of the title turned out to be more along the lines of “communal” demons to me. I related quite heavily to a lot of what’s presented in a pretty novelesque fashion in this biography. And that’s both good and bad. Referring to oneself as “gratuitously difficult” is definitely something I understand wholeheartedly. I also understand trying to save or fix yourself through writing; dating someone who legitimately believes in you but also can’t stop trying to be the center of attention; moving to a new place and having some people make it a point to make sure you never forget you’re not one of them (Outlander! I’m only from one effing state away.); and collecting objects other people find morbid. Bones! Usually not human! I don’t think any of the ones I have are human! Many are fake! Anyway, I’ve always seen myself and what I could become reflected in Shirley Jackson’s work – particularly We Have Always Lived in the Castle’s Merricat (if I was left completely alone it would probably take about a week for me to start ritualizing, just replace Jonah the cat with my pigs, I do not keep sugar on hand though, just for reference).
It really shouldn’t have surprised me that I’d relate to her. I guess I just didn’t expect her to be so utterly relatable. After all, she actually had a career that involved writing as her main occupation, and she had children, and I hadn’t realized that I totally have depression when I first read this. I have not been able to get near the level of writing career I want (not unlike most writers), and I also have yet to become addicted to barbiturates. I am pretty into Lemonheads though. Not making light of addiction, just relating to the fact that Shirley Jackson was also heavily into candy. So, for me, this was essential reading because it’s yet another example of how I’m not entirely delusional about who I’ve always thought I am and how hard I keep trying to do the work that means something to me. Some people aren’t easy and don’t have it easy, it’s a thing; it’s not just me – or you, or anyone who doesn’t give up just because someone else wants them to be nicer.
Apparently there’s a newer Shirley Jackson biography. Swell. We’ll see if I still find myself in that one, it supposedly has a lot of information gleaned from previously unpublished sources and maybe won’t be quite as novely as Private Demons. I hope I do.