Review: The Lottery and Other Stories (Shirley Jackson)

Honestly,I have no idea how to review collections of short stories,but I’ll try to give it a go! (I hope it’s not going to be my worst review ever!)

After reading a good bunch of classics since June 2013,I realized in the midst of this year that I have grossly neglected short stories.I thus went on goodreads and added the best-rated collections to my wish list.After Murakami’s anthology of Birthday Stories and Borges’ Labyrinths,The Lottery and Other Stories is the third collection I’ve delved into.

Let me beforehand say that The Lottery is not the only highlight in this collection.In fact it is not any better than some other superbly written,but lesser-known,gems like The Flower Garden,The Daemon Lover or The Villager.

What I particularly liked with Jackson’s writing is that the ending is recurrently elusive.After writing with engaging vividness for the most part of the story,she is always vague in the conclusive stages,purposely avoiding to give us something definite that would satisfy our reading curiosity.Weirdly this technique sees that we are reading not for the ending,but for the gripping narration.A detached ending besides is also a requisite for many great short-storytellers; if you read Alice Munro’s stories,for example,you’ll agree that the endings have little coherence with the main plot,although highly symbolical.

Moreover I wanted to point out that the literary categorization of Shirley Jackson’s writing is highly misleading.She is erroneously portrayed as someone who reveled in the horror genre,but I think ‘horror’ is too strong a word; the stories were all thematically very dark and gloomy and sometimes disturbing,but none contained morbid allusions and details.To put it in another way,Jackson’s writing is peculiarly delicate yet very dark and clear; she lets you make your own deduction and shiver at the thought of it.Her humor was also very subtle.I am sure that,although fundamentally disturbing,Charles and Of Course will surely put a smile on your face.

Most importantly what really struck me with this collection is that the stories felt very real; there was no magic realism – not that there is anything wrong with it – and nothing highly unlikely.Instead the horrors we witness in the book emanate from terrifying holes in people’s everyday lives: a polite pregnant young lady is almost held hostage by her depressive maid; a newcomer is gradually alienated by the other village dwellers; a woman goes through a delirious mental transformation as a result of her tooth aching.

All in all,I think if you’re fond of short stories or aspire to be a short-storyteller,you should pick this collection.I believe that Jackson’s narrative voice totally suits the requirements of such stories and,in that respect,if you want to read some short stories at their most definite forms – ones filled with details,gripping narratives and elusive endings – then you will find your share in this collection.On the other hand,if you’re much used to reading novels,you might not like this book.The endings might frustrate you and sometimes you might feel there is something lacking in some stories.This is why I opine it is a collection best enjoyed when you’ve read some other short stories before and learnt how to appreciate them.


18 thoughts on “Review: The Lottery and Other Stories (Shirley Jackson)”

  1. It is a very good review 🙂 I say this because I am now convinced to try it out ! I am not too fond of short-stories and I believe thats also because I haven’t been making the best selections ! Hopefully I can get my hands on this and it will draw me more into the genre !

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you liked it!
      I think you really should get into short stories,especially considering you’re a bookworm!
      Given that you’re fond of Indian literature,I suggest Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth to begin with! I haven’t read them myself,but a friend who reads a lot told me they’re excellent! You can also see that they got rave reviews on goodreads!
      And don’t forget Borges! His short stories are among the greatest pieces ever written! 🙂
      Thanks again for the comment and sorry for the late reply! 🙂

  2. Great review, honestly. I read The Lottery in another collection but would love to read it again with the other stories in that collection. She’s an author I must read more of.

    1. Thank you!
      Oh,yes,you should definitely read the other stories! The Flower Garden is just superb.It is very elusive and very delicate,yet extremely compelling!! It is a typical short story which somehow is reminiscent of Alice Munro’s style.You should read it! 🙂

  3. Great review, as always! 😉 You describe Jackson’s writing in ways that make me want to read her sooner rather than later. I shall definitely keep an eye out for any Shirley Jackson collections.

    1. Thank You! 🙂
      Oh,yes,Shirley Jackson is a must.She lived almost as a recluse when she was alive,so that’s why people tend to forget about her.Her short stories are very delicate yet very unique and compelling.Now I must read her novels….(ah so many books to read!)
      Thanks again for the nice comment and sorry for replying so late; as you can imagine,I’m much busy with university.

  4. I still recall my first encounter with “The Lottery” back in high school. It seems the same short stories make the rounds in lit textbooks, but I can’t say Jackson has been in any textbooks I’ve been teaching. Probably too dark for our angst-ridden teen culture.

  5. Your review is great! I just reviewed The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates and they sound similar. Elusive endings, horror from the everyday not the supernatural. I have this collection and am really looking forward to reading it.

    1. Thank you for the nice words!
      To be honest,all my reviews are in a particular ‘Why you should read’ format,but I can’t do the same with collections of short stories.That’s why I was a bit apprehensive as to how people would react with this particular review!

    1. After reading her short stories,I wish to read her other works.The Flower Garden,being one of the longest stories in the collection,gave me a glimpse of Jackson’s capacity as a novelist!
      Thanks for the comment by the way! 😀

    1. Oh yes! It is also superbly written.It really shocks you deeply without any macabre scenes.That’s the sign of a very good author!
      And I’m like you; I want to read her other works in the future!
      As always,thanks for commenting!! 🙂

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