Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 403
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...
(The entire section contains 403 words.)
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- Critical Essays
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 obvious otherwise, they reinforce what Ellison states in the introduction to the volume, “Mortal Dreads,” to be his goal as an author. A seriously moralistic though not didactic writer, Ellison intends to demonstrate to readers of Shatterday that everyone shares the same fears and that, while ultimately alone, each person can find some solace in others.
Shatterday, though published by a major publishing house (Houghton Mifflin), struggled with the difficulty of all short-story volumes in an American marketplace dominated by novels. Because he has focused most of his energies on stories, Ellison is less well known than he could be or deserves to be, though he enjoys a considerable cult following. He has also earned the respect of much of the science-fiction and fantasy community. “Jeffty Is Five,” for example, received both the Hugo Award (1978), given by fans at the annual world science-fiction convention, and the Nebula Award (1977), given by the Science Fiction Writers of America. In addition, many readers and critics have praised “Shatterday” and “All the Birds Come Home to Roost” as among Ellison’s best efforts.