Thursday, July 16, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery and Other Stories"

Lately I have been listening to an audiobook version of Shirley Jackson's short story anthology called The Lottery and Other Stories (1949).  Jackson is best known for the title story as well as the novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959).  The latter was the inspiration for the movie classic "The Haunting" (1963) starring Julie Harris.  Although Shirley Jackson is often considered a horror writer, her works are much more subtle than the typical horror story, and in this collection most of the works are more quirky than terrifying.  In fact, I am not sure I would classify most of these tales as horror fiction.  Some are even rather funny, which I was not at all expecting, and all of the stories are so unique and well written that you cannot stop listening!

Until now the only work by Jackson I had read was her novel We Have Always Lived in a Castle (1962).  I was in high school at the time and found the book to be rather strange and vaguely disturbing.  I did not like it and consequently did not read any more of her works.  However, I am truly enjoying her short stories, perhaps because I am much older now and can better appreciate her unusual and somehow slightly off-kilter view of life in these tales.  If you are looking for stories of the supernatural, this collection is not for you.  In fact, most of the stories tend to be about the everyday lives of seemingly ordinary people who end up in odd predicaments that develop so gradually you are never certain exactly how they got into these situations.  For the most part these tales are not at all scary, and I would recommend this collection even to those who are not fans of horror fiction.  Both the book and the CD versions are available on Amazon.  You can read one of the more comedic short stories from the collection, entitled "Charles", here.  If you have about 30 minutes to spare and are truly fascinated by the author's work, listen to a reading of "The Lottery" on YouTube:

And for those who are hard-core fans, there is a 6-hour reading of the novel The Haunting of Hill House on YouTube as well:

Shirley Jackson is a truly unique writer, and I may just have to seek out and read more of her quirky fiction!

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