Read The Lottery and Other Stories (Modern Library) by Shirley Jackson Free Online
Book Title: The Lottery and Other Stories (Modern Library)|
The author of the book: Shirley Jackson
ISBN 13: 9780679640394
Edition: Modern Library
Date of issue: July 5th 2000
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 729 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.9
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“Grace Paley once described the male-female writer phenomenon to me by saying,’Women have always done men the favor of reading their work, but the men have not returned the favor.’”
I do believe that Miss Jackson was making a very pointed comment about male readers. I don’t consciously think about reading a male or female writer, but I know that I do read more male writers. I went back and looked at the last thirty books I’ve read:
22 male writers 73%
8 female writers 27%
I wasn’t expecting to find a 50/50 split or anything, but I was still shocked to see that my ratio was so extremely out of balance. Thank goodness I had just read an Ursula Le Guin and this Shirley Jackson, or my ratio would have been even more skewed. So maybe I’m not consciously selecting books due to the gender of the writer, but maybe I should be more conscious about selecting more women writers for my reading queue.
Oh no, I have to read more Virginia Woolf! Oh yes!
These stories are all nicely tied together by a single thread of cruelty. Maybe cruelty is too strong a word. Maybe describing it as a meanness, or an unkindness, with how people treat other people would be more accurate. In these stories, there are jilted lovers, racism, unreasonable fears, con men, lost souls, a book thief, petty judgments, aspersions cast recklessly, and with the final story, there is a community of people trapped by their own insidious customs.
We are surrounded by inhumanity.
Jackson sets each of these stories up with perfectly normal scenarios, and then a spear appears out of the darkness and stabs through your vitals. The spear is barbed with wicked spikes so that it hooks into your skin and requires a careful, painful removal before you can move onto the next story. I couldn’t help but think of some of the barbs I’ve had hit me unexpectedly over the years.
I’m a pincushion.
The final story, The Lottery, was quite the sensation when it was published in The New Yorker in 1948. People cancelled their subscriptions. They flooded the offices of the publisher with angry phone calls. Jackson herself received over 300 letters of which only 13 were positive. Even her parents didn’t like the story.
It is always interesting to see how people react to things. Occasionally, our editorial team at the publication of which I am a part owner will publish a story that will irritate some readers. We are in the age of FOX NEWS and MSNBC where people are spoon fed a view of the world that is exactly like their own. People now have even less tolerance for reading or hearing anything that deviates from their own beliefs than people did in 1948. They can agree with 99% of what a publication chooses to share with them, but if they read one article out of several hundred that they don’t like,...they cancel their subscription.
Does that make any sense?
Jackson and her publisher were shocked and, frankly, astounded at the vehement reaction to her story. It certainly stirred up a lot of powerful emotions in people. After the dust settled, I’m sure that Jackson had to be privately pleased that something she wrote scared people or certainly inspired them to action. Most writers prefer adoration to loathing or anger, but there had to be this moment where Jackson thought... Wow, I touched a nerve, and I think I like it.
South Africa banned it.
Looking at the story through a 2016 lense instead of a 1948 lense, I was not at all offended by the story, nor was I as shocked by the story as I certainly would have been 68 years ago, but it is still an unsettling concept. There is the growing unease as you realize what is about to happen. There is a welling of frustration with a group of people who continue to support an event that is trapped in ignorance and superstition. I kept thinking to myself, Someone needs to take an ax to the black box that holds the community hostage. ”The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.” The box’s condition reflects the outdated concepts that inspired its creation in the first place.
Shirley Jackson may not have had the most endearing view of people. She peels her characters like an onion, revealing them layer by layer. We see the deceitfulness and the unscrupulousness that lurks at the center of so many people. Jackson herself suffered from several psychosomatic illnesses and neuroses. She was overweight and chain smoked. I think she was all too aware of her own weaknesses. She passed away in her sleep from a heart attack at 48 years old. I have a feeling she was too hyper aware of the critical nature of life and ultimately crumbled piece by piece under the burden of this awareness. R.I.P.
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Read information about the authorShirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.
She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown America. In her critical biography of Shirley Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" was published in the June 28, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received." Hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by, as Jackson put it, "bewilderment, speculation and old-fashioned abuse."
Jackson's husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, wrote in his preface to a posthumous anthology of her work that "she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years." Hyman insisted the darker aspects of Jackson's works were not, as some critics claimed, the product of "personal, even neurotic, fantasies", but that Jackson intended, as "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb", to mirror humanity's Cold War-era fears. Jackson may even have taken pleasure in the subversive impact of her work, as revealed by Hyman's statement that she "was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned The Lottery', and she felt that they at least understood the story".
In 1965, Jackson died of heart failure in her sleep, at her home in North Bennington Vermont, at the age of 48.
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