Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: The Lottery and Other Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know what I was getting into with "The Lottery and Other Stories." I was pretty sure I'd read the titular short story before, but couldn't bring it to mind. But Jackson's name came up regularly on on recommendation threads, even occasionally in SF forums. So I went for it.

Reading it around the same time as "The Price of Salt" was a good choice. Both focus on middle class women in roughly the 1950s. Both are permeated by an eerie sense of foreboding. Both capitalize on the creepiness inherent in the expectations and societal roles of women in the 1950s to create that sense of eerieness. Jackson steps into supernatural territory while "Salt" stands firmly on real ground, but I enjoyed reading them both so close to each other.

One of my favorite parts of this collection was an unexpected connection between many of the stories: a ghostlike man haunts the book. He shows up as a main character in some stories, only to disappear before the story's end and re-enter in the background of a later story, over and over again. It's like a literary Slenderman.

I also appreciated the insight into the subtle horrors of being a woman - pervasive in the 1950s but not at all absent today. Jackson is all about mundane horror, everyday shadows that creep in at the edges and make life uncomfortable. Many of the stories focus on women working and living alone in the city, and even when they don't veer into supernatural territory there's an edge about them as if the characters are on alert for something to go wrong.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the collection.

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