The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Who (wrote it)?: Shirley Jackson (1916-1965). American author author of horror classic, The Haunting of Hill House, and “The Lottery,” a short story every single teenager read in high school except for me.

What (is it)?: It’s “The Lottery.” And short stories. These are mostly realistic, slice-of-midcentury-American-life stories with a dark, disturbing edge.

When (are we)?: The title story was originally published in The New Yorker in 1948, when it made quite the stir, and was apparently banned in South Africa. This was relatively early in Jackson’s career–two best known works were published in 1959 (The Haunting of Hill House) and 1962 (We Have Always Lived in the Castle).

Where (are we)?: Not a little of specifics. There are stories set in small towns, suburbs, and cities. She’s rarely specific about the setting beyond a story set in Jackson’s home, San Francisco, most of settings have a slightly generic, back-lot feel that lends a bit of uncanniness to many of the stories.

Why (read it)?: As I mentioned above, I somehow managed to get to my 30s without having read “The Lottery.” I’d had it spoiled ages ago, but between the fact that I have really liked everything I’ve read by Jackson (We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of my favorite books), I was given a copy of the book by a friend, and I vaguely feel like I should try to read more short stories, it seemed like it was worth the reading. Why should other people read it? To understand one of 20th century America’s most more important American female authors.

How (did I like it)? You know, even though they were short stories, which at some point I decided I didn’t like, I really liked it! The prose is so clean and straight-forward but the stories go in every so slightly uncomfortable directions without veering into the Twisted and Disturbing genre of short stories I have little patience for. Jackson’s husband, a literary critic, wrote that Jackson intended her work to be “a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb,” and it really comes through. These stories reflect an anxiety and discomfort with the everyday world that is hard to shake.

This book satisfied the read a book that’s been on your TBR for too long prompt of the Pop Sugar challenge.

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