Shirley Jackson

The June 26th, 1948, issue of The New Yorker contained the short story “The Lottery”.  It was authored by Shirley Jackson and detailed a small community that holds an annual lottery.  The story generated the most mail about a work of fiction the magazine had ever received in its history.  The majority of it was hate mail directed at what a lot readers considered a most repulsive story.

Quite a few readers thought the story was a true account as the magazine at the time did not label its articles as fact or fiction.  One thing that disturbed Jackson were the letters from readers wanting to know where such lotteries still occurred as they wanted to be spectators at these events.

“The Lottery” is the most famous of Shirley Jackson’s short stories.  It is, most likely, only second in popularity to her most famous novel, The Haunting of Hill House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Hill House is the story of Dr. John Montague and his endeavors to investigate the realities of the supernatural.  He invites a group of people, each of  whom have had paranormal experiences, to Hill House to capture evidence of the afterlife.

Since it was first published in 1959, The Haunting of Hill House has lost none of its chilling charm.  It is a mind-bending, literate tale that works at a level well above every other ghost story written before or after it.  The same can be said for the bleak, minimal “The Lottery”.  They pull no punches and have no need for cheap shots.

Aside from the two works I’ve mentioned, Jackson authored over two hundred short stories, five additional novels, two memoirs, and also various works for children, including a one-act musical based on “Hansel & Gretel”.

For suggested reading, naturally start with “The Lottery”.  Before you proceed to The Haunting of Hill House, I would encourage you to read We Have Always Lived In the Castle, Jackson’s final novel and one of my favorites.  It is about a family living in isolation visited by an estranged relative who threatens their fragile solitude.

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