Oriana's Reviews > Raising Demons

Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
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's review
Jul 09, 2015

it was amazing
bookshelves: perennialfavorites, read-2009
Read in April, 2009

A few years ago my sister broke her jaw. (She fell off a ladder; don't ask.) Among many other things, this resulted in one of my all-time favorite photos of the two of us—this is what I texted my folks at 4am to let them know she was okay.


So good, right? Anyway, I unearthed this book from the very bottom of a very large stack as a possible candidate to read to her while she was recovering from surgery. And it was such such such a perfect choice! With the possible exception of The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan , this may well be the funniest book ever written. Plus it's so clever, so silly, so warm and sweet. Just totally extraordinary.

It's a book of stunning minutia, where the seemingly simplest things—a Little League game, getting a new dog, making a family dinner, finding a missing sneaker—really just bubble with life and love and joy and fun. Shirley Jackson has just got an impeccable ear for speech and an unsurpassable sense of story, rendering with stunning deftness detailed conversations with her children (in all their non-sequiturian glory) and the many hilarious episodes in her family's day-to-day small-town life. It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that this kind, sweet, gentle, sarcastic woman is the same person from whose brain sprung "The Lottery" and other such disturbing pieces.

Here's the cast. Shirley herself, a very poised, often self-deprecating but extremely perceptive wife and mother of four. Her husband, an English professor at a nearby women's college, coin collector, and extremely sarcastic wit, who is regularly bewildered by his entire family. Then the kids: Laurie, about thirteen, the protective older brother who loves baseball and building stuff and is always being fined by his dad for pronouncing things to be 'real cool' or 'flipped'; Jannie, maybe ten, in her mind a future beauty queen (or princess, hopefully), who is quite smart and often funny; Sally, about five, who speaks in the most delicious "odd jangling manner", which usually means repeating the central theme of each sentence at its end, as in, "Laurie is on his bike, and Jannie has been eaten by bears, eaten"; and finally Barry, two, whose constant companion is a blue teddy bear named Dikidiki.

And look, I should mention that this is not the kind of book I would ever think to read. I mean, it's a memoir by a fifties housewife about life with her family in a small town in Vermont. I hate the perceived preciousness of small-town life. I hate women who think their little babies' foibles are worth transcribing in agonizing detail. And I really hate – or am at least made distinctly uncomfortable by – fifties housewives who simper and obsique, describe themselves as 'helpless little women', and defer to their husbands on everything. Truth be told, I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to pick this up in the first place, given the above. But honestly? None of that matters. Shirley Jackson is just brilliant, in every way, and I don't care what she's writing about – it's just so much fun to listen to and be a part of. I did wind up deciding to read a few little selections to my sister – just a paragraph or two here or there – but each time I started, she didn't let me stop for twenty or thirty pages! I'm avoiding transcribing passages here for the same reason: if I started, I'd have to type up the whole damn book. Shirley Jackson is just superb.
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Reading Progress

03/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Sonky (new) - added it

Sonky I added RD to my to-read because of this review.

However, I can name two, no three! LOL works right off:

My World and Welcome To It (or just about anything) by James Thurber

Peace by Gene Wolfe

Cider House Rules (and others) by John Irving

Oriana Thanks Sonky, for always taking my advice! : )

I will check out your three rec's as well, though I'm surprised about John Irving, as I've always found him pretty dull.

message 3: by Sonky (new) - added it

Sonky I'm sorry you find Irving dull. How much of him have you read?

Maybe the unearthing of anything in light of the book title Raising Demons is what Eric's prolly ref'g to.

message 4: by Ben (new)

Ben 1) Great review!

2) I got the pun right away. ; )

3) Irving is NOT boring! (at least not to me..heh)

message 5: by Aimee (new)

Aimee Just started reading this yesterday, was so excited to find it on Bookshare. (I love Bookshare!) She is an absolute scream, and the bizarre way her kids talk is hilarious. I feel sorry for her poor husband, because she never even mentions his name.
I'm assuming you read the prequel to this one, "Life Among the Savages"? If not, READ IT!

Oriana I have indeed!!!! She is just the best. I think I read there will be a new collection of her unpublished works out soon!

Randee One of my all time favorites. SJ is the bomb. Great picture of you and your sister. Ouch-breaking jaw must really hurt!!

Oriana Haha yeah, poor kid. But never fear—she recovered in six weeks and then went down to Mexico to be a stuntwoman, so it didn't really slow her roll all that much. (My sis is basically a superhero.)

Randee Oriana wrote: "Haha yeah, poor kid. But never fear—she recovered in six weeks and then went down to Mexico to be a stuntwoman, so it didn't really slow her roll all that much. (My sis is basically a superhero.)"

Wow...that's some story! Good for her, glad to hear she picked herself up, dusted herself off and started all over again..lol

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