The Lottery is perhaps Shirley Jackson’s most famous work. A small town gathers one morning to perform its annual lottery, but who will be chosen and for what?
This bold and unsettling short story first appeared in The New Yorker where its journalistic, matter-of-fact tone left many readers wondering if it was fact or fiction. The Lottery prompted a deluge of mail unprecedented in the history of the New Yorker and characterised by Jackson as expressions of “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse”, with most people just wanting to know what it all meant.
It’s an excellent introduction to Jackson’s writing and exploits many of the themes and techniques that she would return to in We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Mortally afraid of recording studios, this recording of Jackson was probably made by her son, Laurence Jackson Hyman, and if you listen closely, you can hear the ice clink in her bourbon. Just remember, it’s only a story.
For further reading, Jackson’s biographer, Ruth Jackson, discusses the The Lottery and the controversy of its publication in The New Yorker: