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The Lottery and Other Stories (FSG Classics) Kindle Edition
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
HE WAS JUST TIGHT ENOUGH and just familiar enough with the house to be able to go out into the kitchen alone, apparently to get ice, but actually to sober up a little; he was not quite enough a friend of the family to pass out on the living-room couch. He left the party behind without reluctance, the group by the piano singing "Stardust," his hostess talking earnestly to a young man with thin clean glasses and a sullen mouth; he walked guardedly through the dining-room where a little group of four or five people sat on the stiff chairs reasoning something out carefully among themselves; the kitchen doors swung abruptly to his touch, and he sat down beside a white enamel table, clean and cold under his hand. He put his glass on a good spot in the green pattern and looked up to find that a young girl was regarding him speculatively from across the table.
"Hello," he said. "You the daughter?"
"I'm Eileen," she said. "Yes."
She seemed to him baggy and ill-formed; it's the clothes they wear now, young girls, he thought foggily; her hair was braided down either side of her face, and she looked young and fresh and not dressed-up; her sweater was purplish and her hair was dark. "You sound nice and sober," he said, realizing that it was the wrong thing to say to young girls.
"I was just having a cup of coffee," she said. "May I get you one?"
He almost laughed, thinking that she expected she was dealing knowingly and competently with a rude drunk. "Thank you," he said, "I believe I will." He made an effort to focus his eyes; the coffee was hot, and when she put a cup in front of him, saying, "I suppose you'd like it black," he put his face into the steam and let it go into his eyes, hoping to clear his head.
"It sounds like a lovely party," she said without longing, "everyone must be having a fine time."
"It is a lovely party." He began to drink the coffee, scalding hot, wanting her to know she had helped him. His head steadied, and he smiled at her. "I feel better," he said, "thanks to you."
"It must be very warm in the other room," she said soothingly.
Then he did laugh out loud and she frowned, but he could see her excusing him as she went on, "It was so hot upstairs I thought I'd like to come down for a while and sit out here."
"Were you asleep?" he asked. "Did we wake you?"
"I was doing my homework," she said.
He looked at her again, seeing her against a background of careful penmanship and themes, worn textbooks and laughter between desks. "You're in high school?"
"I'm a Senior." She seemed to wait for him to say something, and then she said, "I was out a year when I had pneumonia."
He found it difficult to think of something to say (ask her about boys? basketball?), and so he pretended he was listening to the distant noises from the front of the house. "It's a fine party," he said again, vaguely.
"I suppose you like parties," she said.
Dumbfounded, he sat staring into his empty coffee cup. He supposed he did like parties; her tone had been faintly surprised, as though next he were to declare for an arena with gladiators fighting wild beasts, or the solitary circular waltzing of a madman in a garden. I'm almost twice your age, my girl, he thought, but it's not so long since I did homework too. "Play basketball?" he asked.
"No," she said.
He felt with irritation that she had been in the kitchen first, that she lived in the house, that he must keep on talking to her. "What's your homework about?" he asked.
"I'm writing a paper on the future of the world," she said, and smiled. "It sounds silly, doesn't it? I think it's silly."
"Your party out front is talking about it. That's one reason I came out here." He could see her thinking that that was not at all the reason he came out here, and he said quickly, "What are you saying about the future of the world?"
"I don't really think it's got much future," she said, "at least the way we've got it now."
"It's an interesting time to be alive," he said, as though he were still at the party.
"Well, after all," she said, "it isn't as though we didn't know about it in advance."
He looked at her for a minute; she was staring absently at the toe of her saddle shoe, moving her foot softly back and forth, following it with her eyes. "It's really a frightening time when a girl sixteen has to think of things like that." In my day, he thought of saying mockingly, girls thought of nothing but cocktails and necking.
"I'm seventeen." She looked up and smiled at him again. "There's a terrible difference," she said.
"In my day," he said, overemphasizing, "girls thought of nothing but cocktails and necking."
"That's partly the trouble," she answered him seriously. "If people had been really, honestly scared when you were young we wouldn't be so badly off today."
His voice had more of an edge than he intended ("When I was young!"), and he turned partly away from her as though to indicate the half-interest of an older person being gracious to a child: "I imagine we thought we were scared. I imagine all kids sixteen--seventeen--think they're scared. It's part of a stage you go through, like being boy-crazy."
"I keep figuring how it will be." She spoke very softly, very clearly, to a point just past him on the wall. "Somehow I think of the churches as going first, before even the Empire State building. And then all the big apartment houses by the river, slipping down slowly into the water with the people inside. And the schools, in the middle of Latin class maybe, while we're reading Cæsar." She brought her eyes to his face, looking at him in numb excitement. "Each time we begin a chapter in Cæsar, I wonder if this won't be the one we never finish. Maybe we in our Latin class will be the last people who ever read Cæsar."
"That would be good news," he said lightly. "I used to hate Cæsar."
"I suppose when you were young everyone hated Cæsar," she said coolly.
He waited for a minute before he said, "I think it's a little silly for you to fill your mind with all this morbid trash. Buy yourself a movie magazine and settle down."
"I'll be able to get all the movie magazines I want," she said insistently. "The subways will crash through, you know, and the little magazine stands will all be squashed. You'll be able to pick up all the candy bars you want, and magazines, and lipsticks and artificial flowers from the five-and-ten, and dresses lying in the street from all the big stores. And fur coats."
"I hope the liquor stores will break wide open," he said, beginning to feel impatient with her, "I'd walk in and help myself to a case of brandy and never worry about anything again."
"The office buildings will be just piles of broken stones," she said, her wide emphatic eyes still looking at him. "If only you could know exactly what minute it will come."
"I see," he said. "I go with the rest. I see."
"Things will be different afterward," she said. "Everything that makes the world like it is now will be gone. We'll have new rules and new ways of living. Maybe there'll be a law not to live in houses, so then no one can hide from anyone else, you see."
"Maybe there'll be a law to keep all seventeen-year-old girls in school learning sense," he said, standing up.
"There won't be any schools," she said flatly. "No one will learn anything. To keep from getting back where we are now."
"Well," he said, with a little laugh. "You make it sound very interesting. Sorry I won't be there to see it." He stopped, his shoulder against the swinging door into the dining-room. He wanted badly to say something adult and scathing, and yet he was afraid of showing her that he had listened to her, that when he was young people had not talked like that. "If you have any trouble with your Latin," he said finally, "I'll be glad to give you a hand."
She giggled, shocking him. "I still do my homework every night," she said.
Back in the living-room, with people moving cheerfully around him, the group by the piano now singing "Home on the Range," his hostess deep in earnest conversation with a tall, graceful man in a blue suit, he found the girl's father and said, "I've just been having a very interesting conversation with your daughter."
His host's eye moved quickly around the room. "Eileen? Where is she?"
"In the kitchen. She's doing her Latin."
"'Gallia est omnia divisa in partes tres,'" his host said without expression. "I know."
"A really extraordinary girl."
His host shook his head ruefully. "Kids nowadays," he said.
THE LOTTERY AND OTHER STORIES Introduction copyright © 2005 by A. M. Homes
From the Back Cover
"Jackson's great gift is not to create a world of fantasy and terror, but rather to discover the existence of the grotesque in the ordinary world. The grotesque is so powerful here just because it takes off from everyday life and constantly returns there until we do not know ourselves quite where we are."
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- Publication date : March 16, 2005
- File size : 469 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 323 pages
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (March 16, 2005)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0056IAXW6
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #29,812 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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While author Shirley Jackson is arguably best known for "The Lottery," she wrote more then 200 other short stories, as well as six novels and two memoirs before her death in 1965 at age 48.
Still, I purchased this particular volume of short stories because it included "The Lottery," and while I think it is the strongest of the 23 in this collection, many others are just as evocative and imaginative and a few are almost as chilling in the underlying story buried within.
And that is the genius of Shirley Jackson. Not everything is as it seems. On the surface of any given story, it is what it is—but scratch a little and things become very different. That "scratching" requires the reader to think, to ponder, to consider and to actually work a bit at deciphering the real meaning.
I imagine almost every junior high school student in the 1960s read "The Lottery" as part of the English curriculum, but is it still being taught today? I surveyed my three grown children and their spouses, and two of the six had read it in middle school. And one of those two is now a high school English teacher, who continues the tradition of teaching this short story that offers such valuable lessons buried in its imagery and symbolism—tradition, religion, fear, human cruelty and blind, unthinking evil. There is so much to learn from this short tale that takes only 10 minutes to read but will haunt you for a lifetime.
The main character mentioned above from the short story "Elizabeth" really unsettled me, as did many of the seemingly simple stories about Homelife and suburbia.
A.M. Homes wrote in her introduction to this collection by FSG:
"Her stories take place in small towns, in kitchens, at cocktail parties...These stories chart intention, behavior—they are an intimate exploration of the psychopathology of everyday life, the small-town sublime."
I spent two weeks trying to decide which books to pack with me on my month long trip to Ireland, and at the very last moment (the night before), I opted to leave my huge Jackson omnibus at home, and travel with my Kindle editions of her stories, novels, and essays. I'm so glad I chose her as a traveling companion. I love to travel but the "getting-there" part can sometimes unravel me. Her stories were such a comfort!
I know everyone loves the title story of the collection, but I was most impressed with so many of the other subtler stories. Favorites included "Like Mother Used to Make," "The Daemon Lover," and "The Flower Garden." When I reached the conclusion of "The Dummy," I gasped and then immediately started laughing hysterically! I then reread the story to my husband who usually humors me, but he too had to admit that it was pretty hilarious.
She's a new favorite author—a kindred spirit. I can't wait to read more of her work. Hopefully more while I'm here in Ireland. I don't know how I got out of reading this collection in high school, as I saw many fellow students toting this volume around, but I know I couldn't possibly have appreciated Jackson's keen eye or dark humor back then.
One of my favorites was The Daemon Lover, where Jamie searches fruitlessly for her boyfriend who was supposed to meet her at her apartment so they could run away and get married. There was sadness in Trial by Combat, where Emily suspected an old woman in her boarding house of breaking into her room and stealing from her. I laughed reading My Life With R.H. Macy, in which a young woman describes her one day working at Macy's. I have worked retail before so I related to the main character's feeling that she wasn't even a person, just another employee number. I was angry while reading Flower Garden and felt sorry for Mrs MacLane, whose neighbors turned against her after she hired a black woman to work on her garden. Those were just a few of the stories in this collection. There are twenty five short stories and I enjoyed them all, though The Lottery still remains my favorite. The only thing I disliked about the collection was that some of the stories were too short. But I guess that is why they call it a short story, right? In some of the stories, the length prevented as much character development as I liked. Due to the length and the ambiguousness of some of the endings, it was left up to the reader's imagination to determine the characters' motives.
Top reviews from other countries
I particularly like the very short tales: often they're more a scenario than a story with internal development. Jackson's subtle horror of domesticity and suburban narrow-minded 'niceness' is given free reign exposing terrifying children and the horrible underpinnings of what looks, initially, like charity. Casual racism, too, is exposed, the sort that's so difficult to call. And her views of marriage are often of a submerged battle between combatants.
There's a direct line, I think, between these stories and Highsmith's Little Tales of Misogyny, and on into the more obviously macabre short fictions of Joyce Carol Oates.
As might be expected from an author whose best known novel is "The Haunting Of Hill House", there are sinister goings on here; but they are mostly contained within everyday human interactions, with issues such as drunkenness, mental instability and racism at their roots.
Some of these stories are brief glimpses of awkwardness of a kind which may well have influenced Raymond Carver; others are more involved journeys into everyday personal nightmares. All are beautifully written and sadly relatable.
Fine, strangely sad story-telling.