Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories

Lidija Haas writes:

In Shirley Jackson’s best-known story, ‘The Lottery’, the residents of a small New England village get together on a summer morning to draw lots. The sun shines, the children play, the villagers chat: it takes a few pages to figure out that they’re deciding who should be stoned to death this year. The New Yorker published the story in 1948, and got more calls and letters and cancelled subscriptions than ever before or since. A decade later, people were still writing to ask Jackson what it meant. For the most part she didn’t like to say, but she told a former teacher she’d got the idea from his folklore class; to someone else she remarked that ‘of course’ the story was ‘about the Jews’; and to others she said it wasn’t fiction at all, but ‘simply North Bennington’, the Vermont town in which she lived, and the people there, ‘the way they slaughter one another’.

(LRB 19 August 2010)