Top positive review
Not Everything Is As It Seems: Horror and Terror Become Great Literature
Reviewed in the United States on October 18, 2018
I first read the short story "The Lottery" in junior high at age 14, and I remember being utterly shocked…and scared. Very scared. Fast forward 50 years, and even though I remembered the plot and so I knew what would happen, I still had the same visceral reaction when I read it now as I did when I was a young teenager.
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.