“Mrs. Melville Makes a Purchase” – Shirley Jackson

A couple years ago I purchased an e-copy (nook version) of “Just an Ordinary Day” a (posthumous) book of Shirley Jackson short stories, “previously unpublished and uncollected.” I made the purchase after reading one of the stories in The New Yorker (“Paranoia” – see my prior post about that story here). I also had assigned another story from this collection to my Deal Me In challenge deck of cards as the King of Hearts, which I drew this morning for week 29 of Deal Me In 2015.

I’m one of those people who tries to always follow the golden rule when dealing with others. Treating them as I would hope to be treated myself. I’m betting most of you reading this are the same type of people (thankfully, most people in general are too). Mrs. Melville, the title character of this Shirley Jackson story, is NOT one of those type of people. Jackson makes us dislike Mrs. Melville immediately as, while shopping for a blouse in a department store, Melville sighs “How long do I have to wait for service here?” to a salesgirl who is helping another customer. I was happy to see the salesgirl eventually start “giving it back” to Mrs. Melville though, when she notes that she doesn’t have Mrs. Melville’s desired purchase in pink or chartreuse, but that “I have the black. Most large figures prefer the black.” (Heh heh)

Eventually Mrs. Melville completes a purchase and with barely muted indignation seeks out the store’s Complaint Department, which the salesgirl helpfully informs her is on the ninth floor. This is just the beginning of Mrs. Melville’s retail adventures, though, as she stops for lunch on the fifth floor (as you might guess, she’s dissatisfied with her server and food there too – we are seeing a pattern here) and, after seeing a mysterious woman, realizes she’s lost the package with her purchase…

This was a good story, and I enjoyed it (who doesn’t like to see snobs getting their comeuppance?), but I don’t think it’s up to the high standards of Jackson’s other work. I’m sure I’ll still read the other stories in this book eventually as well, but I’ll probably be rationing them out over several years, as has become my habit with Short story collections. Oh, and this week’s Deal Me In coincidence? I discovered that the book blogosphere has a “Shirley Jackson Reading Week” currently in progress. How cool is that? One of the host blogs may be seen at http://www.stuckinabook.com/its-shirley-jackson-reading-week/

What have you read by Shirley Jackson and what did you think of it? In addition to her story, “Paranoia,” I’ve blogged about her creepy story “The Summer People” as well.

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