the lottery

Last Saturday I had a little free time as I waited to pick up my husband from a recording session he was working. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson has been on my radar for a little while, first after I read The Haunting of Hill House (my review) and again more recently after reading Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman (my review), which includes “The Lottery Redux,” a chapter inspired by Jackson’s classic short. I figured this would be a good choice while I waited. From Goodreads:

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What’s there to be scared of?

Wow! How can a mere 12 pages pack such a haunting, terrifying punch? I can’t believe I haven’t read this sooner. Jackson sets up a bucolic day on which a small town of 300 are assembling together. Once everyone arrives, they commence with the lottery, done every year on the same date in the same way. Jackson then drops a bomb on the reader by shifting from benign to horrifying in a matter of a couple sentences. I’d love to go into more detail, and the ending has made me think a lot about society, authority, order, and so on, but just in case I’m not the very last person to read it I’ll stop here! A brilliant teeny tiny short story, readable in 20 minutes.

Read on June 20, 2015.

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