Author HILLEL ITALY, AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Shirley Jackson had a gift for evoking the depths of unease in the space that a baseball game can take up.
This week’s Summer issue of The Strand Magazine published two very short and previously unpublished stories, “Charlie Roberts” and “Just Stand and Wait,” which featured little-known works by William Faulkner, Mark Twain and many others. “Charlie Roberts” is a tense conversation between a married couple about their dinner party plans, and in “Just Wait and Wait” a blind man has undergone surgery and will soon see his eyes, but wonders if he made the right decision.
“Like so much of Jackson’s work, both of these stories carry serious, unspoken concerns,” Strand managing editor Andrew F. Gulli wrote in the new issue.
Jackson’s son and literary executor Lawrence Hyman refers to two undated stories as “vignettes” she probably sketched in her 20s during one of her daily writing sessions. Jackson, who died in 1965 at the age of 48, was a prolific writer who wrote eight novels and hundreds of short stories, the most famous of which is The Lottery. sister Sarah Hyman Stewart helped compose the posthumous compilations Just an Ordinary Day and Let Me Tell You.
It was a household dedicated to the production of words; Jackson’s husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, was himself a writer and staff writer for The New Yorker. Lawrence Hyman has vivid memories of returning home and hearing his parents work.
“She typed really fast, and when the two of them typed on their typewriters, the sound was really punchy. It was like machine gun fire,” he said. “You would hear a flurry of typing, then a short pause, then another flurry.”
Jackson scholar Darryl Hattenhauer, assistant professor of American Studies and English at Western Arizona State University, believes that these two parts could be the starting point for longer narratives. But each work is a story in its own right, with a common theme of the outside world that is perhaps best kept at bay.
In “Charlie Porter”, the main character is never seen, but he left a penknife at the home of an unnamed couple. In just a few hundred words during the dialogue about who to invite to dinner, Jackson alludes to a backstory of infidelity and distrust, briefly alludes to a previous separation in the marriage, and makes the husband think about the need to host at all.
“Why do we need to know people at all? Can’t we be happy all alone?”
“We are never satisfied when we are alone,” the wife replies with a laugh. “We have to have people who annoy us.”
The title “Just Stand and Wait” comes from a poem by John Milton who laments his blindness – “my days in this dark world” – but accepts his fate and concludes that “they also serve those who only stand and wait.”
In Jackson’s story, an unnamed man sits in his doctor’s office, blindfolded. Blind from birth, he is about to see for the first time. But instead of feeling joy and gratitude, he worries that his lack of vision has somehow protected him.
“I’ll be out into the light soon,” the man said. “I will be with everyone, I will live with them and see them.”
Even the doctor’s promise to act slowly cannot calm him down.
“Don’t take off your bandages yet, Doctor. Let me stay a little longer,” he says. — Please, doctor. I think I want to be blind a little more.”
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