After so enjoying two other editions from the Penguin Mini Classics set, I bought a copy of The Tooth, by Shirley Jackson. What a curious collection! Of the five stories in the book, I found three brilliant and the other two a little baffling.
The highlights for me were the shortest stories The Lottery, Charles and The Witch. All three sent shivers down my spine. In Charles and The Witch the stories are set in quite an ordinary situation, but as you read on, Jackson introduces an element of unease and plants an uncomfortable idea about what might be happening. These two stories also centre around the behaviour of children and what they might be capable of. The Lottery is more about community and the ability of the collective to affect the will of an individual.
The Tooth is the longest story in the book and I freely admit that I didn’t ‘get it’. It describes the experience of a young woman who travels to the city on her own to have her tooth extracted. I found it a little disorientating – which incidentally, is probably the point. In her drugged up, post-op state the woman experiences dreamlike moments of confusion. I thought it was evocative but something was missing for me because it was a little too abstract. I felt the same also with the final story – The Intoxicated.
I think that it is actually to be expected when reading stories designed to be disturbing that a reader should be more affected by some than others, if only because certain ideas will make a specific person feel more uneasy than others. As a collection I thought The Toothwas a brilliant bite-sized selection of unsettling moments and everyday horrors.
More Mini Moderns: You can read my reviews of other Mini Moderns – Children on their Birthdays, by Truman Capote (4/5), and Through The Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (5/5), and see a list of other blogger’s reviews of this excellent series at the Curious Book Fans blog. Savidge Reads also read The Tooth and loved it.
Have you read any Shirley Jackson stories?
You’ve definitely made me want to read them, Polly! The only one I have read is The Lottery, which I thought was chillingly good. And of course I love We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House. The Bird’s Nest was interesting too, if not as good. I don’t have this mini collection, but I do have the Penguin Classics Shirley Jackson short stories, and I’m looking forward to reading them.
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