Saturday, May 31, 2008

Life Among the Savages, by Shirley Jackson

Bah. This book wasn't really all I was hoping it would be and that's probably Erma Bombeck's fault. It was very Bombeck in nature. If you like Erma's style, you'll like Jackson's style. Probably.

The interesting thing that sets Jackson apart, I think, is her lifestyle choices (i.e., smoking & brandy). You can be reading along, as happy as a lark, when all the sudden she mentions that she lit up a cigarette. And she's always pregnant when she mentions this. It's a stark reminder that times have changed since the 1940's! What I also found interesting was that neither she nor her husband could drive and she was the one first pushed into learned. That also just strikes you a bit odd as you are reading along. It's really no fault of Jackson's. It's just period dated which you are constantly reminded of.

I think I like Bombeck better than Jackson because while Bombeck frequently paints a chaotic picture of her life, you just get the feeling that some of it is for the reader sake and she has more control over the situation that she gives off. Somehow, someway, it feels like Bombeck's world hosts more order while Jackson's world is pitiable at best. Her kids really do come across as savages and I really don't admire that characteristic in people of any age or size. I kept wondering if Jackson's children grew up with some degree of normalcy and became somewhat productive members of society. At least with Bombeck's children (I like to think anyway!) that they could grow up saying, "Yeah, I'm a Bombeck. Life was crazy but I sure do love my mother!" I don't get the same feeling from Jackson's "savages."

Another thing that sets them apart to some degree is Jackson's monologue descriptions of various conversations that she had with people. It's a bit disjarring (at least to me) and throws you off kilter a bit when she goes from describing a situation and telling you a story to launching into a conversation. It's easy to get lost in the conversation and you have to remember what it is that she's really trying to say or tell you about. I think Bombeck does a better job completing her stories without losing you.

I don't mean to make it sound like I really hated this book. Because I didn't. Jackson is a very humorous writer. But you really can't read her after you've read a lot of Bombeck otherwise it just spoils the whole thing. I didn't hate it. I was just bored. That's all. I can't say I wouldn't recommend this book - because I probably would. I'd just recommend something - ANYthing - by Bombeck before I'd suggest Jackson. That's my take.


At 6:56 AM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

Hmm, now I thought I liked Jackson better than Bombeck, but it's been a while since I read Bombeck, so I could be mistaken. Barring the prenatal consumption of now-verboten substances (which pretty much everybody except fundamentalists did in the 40s, and babies still survived), their family life seemed pretty normal to me. Maybe it was the mother as more of an observer than an active participant--I tend to identify with that. I hope my kids aren't too warped by it.

At 6:58 AM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

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At 8:24 AM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

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At 5:53 PM, Blogger Calon Lan said...

I tried to post my comment the other day, but for some reason it was rejected.

I have to admit that I didn't care for this one at all. Not my style of humor, I think.


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