Monday, February 4, 2013

The short story that "did more in nine pages than most novels do in nine chapters"

I discovered "The Lottery", by Shirley Jackson, on my Kindle Fire when I was on vacation last month and after I raced to the end of this gripping but quietly horrifying tale it doesn't take more than 15 minutes to read the 3,378 words — I wanted to know more about the author and also understand what her aims were when she wrote this piece.

It turns out that it was The New Yorker that first published "The Lottery" almost 65 years ago. As a recent note in the magazine explains, "The Lottery" proved to be perhaps the most controversial short story The New Yorker has ever published: "After it ran, in the issue of June 26, 1948, hundreds of readers cancelled their subscriptions or wrote letters expressing their anger and confusion over what the story meant. Jackson, who contributed twelve short stories to the magazine, became a literary sensation almost overnight."

The full text of "The Lottery" is available on the American Literature website. Read it here. (There are some discussion questions, too, on this PDF version.)

Also read, for background information, this post on the Neatorama blog: "The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson".