I am the captain of my fate

Shirley Jackson
Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

When she wrote this entry in her diary, Shirley Jackson was forty-eight. Born in 1916 in San Francisco, California, she was the gifted author of six novels and hundreds of short stories including, most notably, The Lottery, a chilling tale about a small town’s murderous traditions which not only caused huge controversy when first published in the New Yorker in 1948, but also introduced her to the reading public as a master of horror. By the 1960s, though still managing to write some of her best work, Jackson’s health was in decline, acute anxiety and agoraphobia leaving her housebound and frustrated, a difficult marriage to critic Stanley Edgar Hyman only exacerbating her problems. Poignantly, this diary entry would be her last. Months later, Jackson died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart failure.

The Diary Entry

I am the captain of my fate I am the captain of my fate I am the captain of my fate.

Laughter is possible laughter is possible laughter is possible.

Further Reading

Shirley Jackson’s personal papers, including her diaries, are held at the Library of Congress—as of yet, those diaries haven’t been published, but we live in hope. For now, excerpts can be found in two biographies of Jackson: Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson, by Judy Oppenheimer, published in 1988, and the excellent Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin, published in 2016. There is also a wonderful volume of Shirley Jackson’s letters that I recommend highly.

Diary entry reprinted by kind permission of the Shirley Jackson estate. All rights reserved.

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