Let Me Tell You – Shirley Jackson – Quotes

I think what I loved most about the book was the fact that it reminded me of the power of imagination in everyday life, imagining stories about objects and people. It’s been a while since I have been making up stories in my head about people I see on the street and this book gave me my fun back. And Jackson’s observations about children and writing are fabulous too, so I decided to share some of them with you.

I get a lot of unnecessary sarcasm from that eggbeater, too.

I do not mean to say that I am under the thumb of my forks, any more than I am honestly afraid of the meat grinder’s threats, or the bullying of the coffeepot. It is simply that one cannot live a day in the middle of so many personalities without occasionally threading on some fork’s toes, or sidesweeping the fundamental makeup of a dishtowel.

I give my kitchen time; it’s primarily easy going and friendly, and it will adapt to anything.

A bevy of thirteen-year-olds has only one mind, and it is the mind of everyone else.

The children around our house have a saying that everything is either true, not true, or one of Mother’s delusions.

The very nicest thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness, and nobody can really do anything about it, as long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were. I am, this morning, endeavoring to persuade you to join me in my delusional world; it is a happy, irrational, rich world, full of fairies and ghosts and free electricity and dragons, and a world beyond all others fun to walk around in. All you have to do – and watch this carefully, please – is keep writing. As long as you write it away regularly, nothing can really hurt you.

Actually, if you’re a writer, the only good thing about adolescent children is that they’re so easily offended. You can drive one of them out of the room with a kind of simple word or a phrase – such as “Why don’t you pick up your room?” – and get a little peace to write in. They go storming upstairs and don’t come down again until dinner, which usually gives me plenty of time to write a short story.

I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again; a writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing.

I think that the popular notion of the writer as a person hiding away in a garnet, unable to face reality, is probably perfectly true. In my own experience, contacts with the big world outside the typewriter are puzzling and terrifying; I don’t think I like reality very much. Principally I don’t understand people outside; people in books are sensible and reasonable, but outside there is no predicting what they will do.

Far and away the greatest menace to the writer – any writer, beginning or otherwise – is the reader. The reader is, after all, a kind of silent partner in this whole business of writing, and a work of fiction is surely incomplete if it is never read. The reader is, in fact, the writer’s only unrelenting, genuine enemy. He has everything on his side; all he has to do, after all, is to shut his eyes, and any work of fiction becomes meaningless. Moreover the reader has an advantage over a beginning writer in not being a beginning reader; before he takes up a story to read it, he can be presumed to have read everything from Shakespeare to Jack Kerouac.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @ vkphotospace

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