Oh boy, I took in a huge book haul. Just when I'm fed up on horror and mystery and ready for nothing but non-fantastical fiction for a while. But oh, well, these will keep until I'm ready for chills and thrills again.
Before, I did mention I enjoyed reading short stories. There aren't many books with short stories today and for a long time, I heard about The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, which is one of the reasons why I had been looking high and low for this collection. There are 24 short stories altogether and to my amazement, I really enjoyed reading all of them.
The Lottery and Other Stories is divided into 5 parts and to its own theme. Here's a short summary for each of these stories:-
The Intoxicated - When a drunk meets the daughter of the host of the party. The Daemon Lover - A girl looking for her future husband on her wedding day. Like Mother Used to Make - A man cooks dinner for his guest only to be thrown out of his house. Trial By Combat - A woman's apartment been robbed by another tenant. The Villager - A woman pretend to be a buyer of things. My Life With R.H. Macy - A man works in Macys. The Witch - A man tells a story of a scary witch to a child in gruesome details. The Renegade - When an owner's dog kills a farmers chicken. After You, My Dear Alphonse - A game played between two children. Charles - A boy shares his school days with his parents about a naughty student. Afternoon in Linen - A grandmother proud of his grand daughter of a poem she wrote. Flower Garden - A wife who fell in love with a cottage meets the new owner that the neighbors do not want to be friends with. Dorothy and My Grandmother and The Sailors- A trip to a town only to avoid sailors. Colloquy - A patient shares her problems with a doctor. Elizabeth - A day of a literary agent. A Fine Old Firm - A meeting of new neighbors. The Dummy - One night show of a ventriloquist. Seven Types of Ambiguity - A couple going into a bookstore to buy books. Come Dance With Me In Ireland - When three women shown kindness to an Irish old man. Of Course - Greeting a new neighbor. Pillars of Salt An experience trip to New York to remember by a couple. Men With Their Big Shoes - When an expected married wife gets a different view about husbands from a caretaker. The Tooth - When a married woman goes on a trip to New York to extract a tooth with devastating change. The Lottery - A lottery that is held with unexpected results.
There is a small poem as a companion to The Daemon Loverwhich can be read at the end of the book. This is my first time reading a Shirley Jackson book without any expectations. I never thought I would be amazed by her writing, let alone magnetize by her way of story telling. There is some thing about her writings that really makes an interesting read. These stories, some doesn't have an ending. Its like a pick out of the blue chapter from some where. Its plot isn't interesting but by way of reading, its something else. I followed to each of their own and to each of them, they are all good (for me any way). Usually I won't enjoy a short story if it lingers in the end but this is an exception for me because, its just the way she writes that I like about. I had invested in her other books (bought almost all of them I think) and I can't wait to read them all. The Lottery and Other Stories is a book picking up because of its writing but yes, it may not be anyone's cup of tea but still, I would highly recommend it for its weirdness, twist and unexpected spin of tales of the normal that makes it quite extraordinary.
The Lottery and Other Stories is an uneven collection. If you've read any of my reviews about a collection of short stories, you've probably heard this before. “Uneven” sums up my feelings for every short story collection I've ever read. There are different levels of uneven, but it's only natural that some stories will resonate powerfully and others will simply be okay. Consistent writing is not an easy task for a writer of short stories, anymore than it is for a novelist. Creative ventures in any medium are going to fluctuate and people will have differing opinions about them (personally, I loved The Casual Vacancy).
The “problem” with this collection is that it's unevenness is on fully display. This is like watching a team of all-stars face off against a team of one superstar and a bunch of novices who barely know the rules of the game. This is like watching a bulky grown man on a teeter-totter with a toddler, adorable, but not carrying her weight. This is a collection of some of Jackson's best stories opposite of some that you could say are lacking (with “The Lottery” thrown in at the end). Keep in mind, that when I say these stories are “lacking,” some are quite alright. It's Shirley Jackson, so there's no such thing as a horrendous story. But her greatest moments of insight, development, and storytelling are there at the beginning to entice the reader. And her most famous story, “The Lottery,” is at the end to keep a reader going. Personally, were I to compile such a collection, I'd mix it up. Otherwise, a reader is given false hopes for an amazing second half and what follows is grueling. Throw in some of the less wonderful stories between great stories and the reader will be more forgiving, if they notice at all. And so this collection ends on a low note (especially if you've already read “The Lottery” several times before).
Jackson is most famous for her paranormal tales that explore dark aspects of human nature. The majority of the tales in The Lottery... contain no elements of horror or oddity, but they do largely explore human nature. I have previously read two of Jackson's more famous novels, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, but what really struck me about this collection is how deeply Jackson delved into the psychology of her characters. She was a wonderful explorer of what drives the human brain and how we react to changes in our environment. Though many of the stories in this collection lack a significant plot, always the story moves because of the actions and reactions of the characters.
Although I do wish The Lottery and Other Stories had been structured differently, it is still a collection of the highest caliber. Readers looking for stories with highly-engaging plots will likely grow bored with Jackson, in general; for those hoping for great characters and character development, Jackson is a treat. Already, I am eager to read more of her great work.