Friday, 12 June 2009

A Lottery I Wouldn't Want to Win



I am left feeling traumatised after reading Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery". I knew there was a reason that I wanted to read Shirley Jackson and that I also wanted to know as little about her work as possible before reading it. She terrifies the reader in this story and builds suspense in such a way that I read with a looming sense of dread and a tummy that was feeling decidedly uneasy and still is, for that matter.

The volume pictured isn't available until October and along with We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House is on my wishlist. "The Lottery" though is readily available online and is only five pages long; I urge you to read it but beware of losing your wits and perhaps your breakfast.

I cannot reveal much about the plot -nor do I want to- but suffice to say it is set in small-town America, concerns the yearly, ritualistic Lottery that occurs amongst the townspeople, and is a deeply unsettling exam of barbaric inhumanity. Upon publishing the short story in 1948 The New Yorker received a virulently negative response from its readers with hate mail and subsciption cancellation in abundance. To illicit such a strong response over a short story was unprecedented.

It is a long wait until October to read Jackson's other works.

9 comments:

Rebecca said...

Scary stuff. Thanks for the warning!

JoAnn said...

I've been meaning to read Jackson. I think you've just helped me pick my story for Short Story Monday next week - thanks!

Paperback Reader said...

I hope you both enjoy it.

I made my boyfriend read it when he came home from work and he was far from impressed with it. Sigh.

farmlanebooks said...

I am very intrigued by this. I am always interested in things people find contraversial, so I'm going to try to find this some time today. Thank you for pointing it out!

farmlanebooks said...

You don't have to wait until October to read them all, as this book has been released already - it is just a reprint coming out in October.

I've just finished reading the story - it is amazing how she can build up the tension in such a small space of time. Thank you for pointing it out.

Nymeth said...

I'm so glad this collection is being reprinted. I tried to find a copy last year with no luck, after going through a Shirley Jackson phase in which I read and adored Castle and Hill House. She really is amazing.

Paperback Reader said...

Jackie, I enjoyed reading your opinion of it and the subsequent comments. I think this story should be widely shared.

Ana, I am also glad they are being reprinted as copies are difficult to ascertain, even from the library. I think I will go through a phase once I can obtain the copies.

Samantha said...

I too have We Have Always Lived in the Castle on my wishlist. The Lottery sounds like a good intro to her work.

Paperback Reader said...

Samantha, it does indeed make a good introduction and leaves you wanting to read more of her work. Definitely a good start to make.