Shatterday Essay - Critical Essays

Harlan Ellison


The best stories in Shatterday involve the intrusion of the fantastic into everyday life. Ellison excels at portraying both the real and the unreal, using descriptive and at times lyrical language. The transitions between the known and the unknown are often achieved so seamlessly that the reader’s disbelief is not so much consciously suspended as naturally subdued. Ellison also effectively describes contemporary settings and lives of quiet desperation. For example, “Jeffty Is Five” is both an effective fantasy and a loving tribute to popular culture in America during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Many critics have commented on Ellison’s emotional, often hyperbolic style. Although many of the stories in Shatterday exhibit touches of antic humor or righteous fury, the collection as a whole is noteworthy for its generally constrained tone. From the elegiac “Jeffty Is Five” to horror stories such as “Flop Sweat,” “The Man Who Was Heavily into Revenge,” “All the Birds Come Home to Roost,” and “Shatterday” to the dreamlike “Alive and Well on a Friendless Voyage” and “The Other Eye of Polyphemus,” Ellison is in full control.

Critics have also remarked on Ellison’s introductions. Some consider them intrusions. Although it is true that the introductions have the effect of making the reader conscious of the writer behind the stories and point out autobiographical elements that would not have been...

(The entire section is 403 words.)