Shelley Jackson (The New School)

S.JacksonShelley Jackson (born in 1963) is a writer and artist known for her cross-genre experiments, including her groundbreaking work of hyperfiction, Patchwork Girl (1995). Her first novel was published in 2006, Half Life. Born in the Philippines, Jackson grew up in Berkeley, California, she received a B.A. in art from Stanford University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Brown University. While at Brown, Jackson was taught by electronic literature advocates Robert Coover and George Landow.

A nonchronological reworking of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Patchwork Girl was published by Eastgate Systems in 1995 to acclaim; it became Eastgate’s best-selling CD-ROM title and is now considered a groundbreaking work of hyperfiction. While working in a San Francisco, California bookstore, Jackson published two more hypertexts, the autobiographical My Body (1997), and The Doll Games (2001), which she wrote with her sister Pamela.

In the late nineties, Jackson alternated hypertext work with writing short stories (in publications such as The Paris Review and Conjunctions) and children’s books. During this period, Jackson also did cover and interior illustrations for two short story collections by Kelly Link, Stranger Things Happen (2001) and Magic for Beginners (2005). She also illustrated her own children’s books, The Old Woman and the Wave (1998) and Sophia, the Alchemist’s Dog (2002).

She published her first short story collection, The Melancholy of Anatomy, in 2002. In 2003 she launched the Skin Project, which she described as a “mortal work of art”: a novella published exclusively in the form of tattoos on the skin of volunteers, one word at a time. This endeavour was especially interesting due to the fact that only those participating in the project were permitted to read the entire narrative. Jackson’s first novel, Half Life, was released by HarperCollins in 2006In 1987, Jackson married the writer Jonathan Lethem; they divorced in 1998. She currently teaches in the graduate writing program at The New Schoolin New York City and at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee.

The great Robert Coover says : “Perhaps the true paradigmatic work of the era, Shelley Jackson’s elegantly designed, beautifully composed Patchwork Girl […] offers the patient reader, if there are any left in the world, just such an experience of losing oneself to a text, for as one plunges deeper and deeper into one’s own personal exploration of the relations here of creator to created and of body to text, one never fails to be rewarded and so is drawn ever deeper, until clicking the mouse is as unconscious an act as turning a page, and much less constraining, more compelling.”


– Hypertexts
Patchwork Girl (1995)
My Body (1997)
The Doll Games (with Pamela Jackson, 2001)

– Books
Do You Know Me (Orchard Books, 1993), text by Nancy Farmer, illustrated by Jackson
The Old Woman and The Wave (1998), children’s book
Sophia, the Alchemist’s Dog (2001), children’s book
The Melancholy of Anatomy (2002), short story collection
Half Life (2006), novel
Mimi’s Dada Catfesto (2010), children’s book

– Other projects
Skin (begun 2003)
Musée Mécanique (A Web Exclusive)
The Putti (1996)
Hagfish, Worm, Kakapo (1994)