Monday, September 24, 2012

"The Summer People"

"The Summer People", by Shirley Jackson

If you like Jackson's most famous short story, "The Lottery", there's a good chance you'll like "The Summer People", too.   On the surface, it's just a mundane story about a retired couple who decide to stay in their rural summer cottage one month longer than usual.  Why not squeeze in a few more weeks of enjoyment before returning to New York City?  However, as the people in the nearby village repeatedly tell them, summer people simply don't stay on after Labor Day... And the more you hear it, the more you begin to wonder why...  Subtle undercurrent of dread, anyone?

Specific Notes:

--  I gather that a "backhouse" is the same thing as an "outhouse", but I think this is the first time I've seen that word.

--  Mrs. Allison, considering the local grocer, remarks "it was horrible to think into what old New England Yankee stock had degenerated", and her husband replies that "it's generations of inbreeding" and "the bad land".   Hm.  Well, good to know that City Folk (of the past, at least) didn't think it was just Southerners and/or hillbillies Mountain Folk who had succumbed to inbreeding.  I guess.  ;o)

--  "A garbage man was only necessary for improvident city folk; country people had no garbage."

--  "City manners were no good with country people; you could not expect to overrule a country employee as you could a city worker..."

--  Maybe this is a sign of increasing life expectancies, or perhaps it's merely a reflection of my own increasing age and the resultant wish to push the margins of "old" further and further out... but I found it odd that this couple is described as being old (and apparently with fewer and fewer friends still living) when they are only 58 and 60... Yeah, it's probably just me.  I think about my parents' ages... and my own age... and just can't admit to myself that none of us are as young as we were ten or twenty years ago.  *sigh*  But really, 58's not that old, is it?