As a Shirley Jackson fan, I couldn’t pass on this new collection of unpublished short stories. A good chunk of these was unheard of for thirty years until someone unearthed some cardboard boxes in a Vermont barn and then sent them to her heirs.
Unlike The Lottery, where all tales followed a distinct theme, Just an Ordinary Day has little to unite the stories. Several genres are represented: classic family stories, supernatural, horror, and unsettling accounts of day-to-day life in the fifties all make up the list. Not all stories are of the same level. While most are mature for prime time, a few could have used some more tinkering, yet they were worth publishing as a precious testimony of an (infinitely talented) writer’s creative process. At one point, two versions of the same tale are put side by side, thus allowing a look into how Shirley Jackson revised her stories and perfected them over time. I think my Italian (Adelphi) edition includes a selection of the original collection of more than fifty, which is probably a good thing (I read somewhere that a second book with the missing pieces is planned).
I would probably not recommend this book as a first-time Jackson reading. Her renowned fiction would be a better entry point1, with The Lottery serving as her must-read short-stories collection. Just an Ordinary Day is an excellent addition to any Jackson collection, with some of its tales deserving recognition at the top of her writing.