SHIRLEY ANNE JACKSON was born in San Francisco on December 14, 1919, the first of two children of Leslie Jackson and Geraldine Bugbee Jackson.She was a loner, interested mostly in reading and writing poetry and disdainful of her family's affluence and values. In 1933, the Jacksons moved to Rochester, New York, where Shirley attended the University of Rochester.She withdrew after one year, however, because of severe depression. She later enrolled at Syracuse University, receiving a B.A. in 1940. There she met the author and literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman ( 1919-1970), whom she married in 1940.
The two collaborated on literary magazines at Syracuse until moving to New York City, where Jackson worked as a department store clerk; she described these years in " My Life with R.H. Macy." After the birth of their first two children, the family moved to North Bennington, Vermont.There Hyman taught at Bennington College and Jackson found more time to write. Her short story "Come Dance with Me in Ireland" appeared in The New Yorker in 1943 and was included in the collection The Best American Short Stories: 1944.
Four years later, The New Yorker published " The Lottery," which would become Jackson's most famous short story and created an immediate sensation. The ordinariness and shocking horror of this story about a small American town that practices an annual sacrifice induced more readers to send letters to The New Yorker than anything the magazine had previously published. The story was made into a screenplay in 1950 and has been recorded, recently by actress Maureen Stapleton. Hyman would later observe that " The Lottery" and Jackson's subsequent works that show her "fierce visions of dissociation and madness, of alienation and withdrawal, of cruelty and terror, have been taken to be personal, even neurotic fantasies. Quite the reverse: They are a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and The Bomb" ( Saturday Evening Post, 18 December 1965).
Most of Jackson's works deal with terror, both supernatural and psychological, and often with the tenuousness of identity. Her first novel, The Road Through the Wall ( 1948), is about disturbed adolescents and is set in her childhood hometown of Burlingame, California.Her next two novels, Hangsaman ( 1951) and The Bird's Nest ( 1954), are about