Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reading Journal: The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson (1948)

It's the only collection of her work that appeared during her lifetime, but Jackson can safely stake her reputation on this one volume; it contains the leanly-written title story, her most famous, about a completely absurd and horrific small-town ritual, but among the other 25 included here, there are almost no letdowns. "Elizabeth," for me, was the second-best, a story that explores personal, professional and other kinds of jealousy and competition between two women, both employees of a man who always tells them everything they want to hear. And the collection opens with a strong pair, too: a teenage girl has a bizarre conversation with a drunk guest of her parents in "The Intoxicated," and in "The Daemon Lover," we share in the painful and seemingly eternal wait for a meeting with a man who has expressed interest in the narrator but never shows up. In all, the stories are on the sardonic side, not always challenging but demanding your attention as Jackson attempts to show you the how and why of the way people act, and hints all the while at the underlying reasons. A signpost collection for anyone interested in the short story form.

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