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Remembering Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

March 3, 2011 in American literature, Classic Writers, Short Stories

Shirley Jackson / B&N ReviewShirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a short story worth remembering.  I won’t ruin the ending for you if you haven’t read it … but it’s quite frankly one of the most memorable and bizarre endings in literary history.  It’s no wonder that Utne Reader has decided to revisit the publishing of “The Lottery” in The New Yorker in 1948.

I first read “The Lottery” in elementary school in a program called Junior Grade Books.  I recall being bored by a lot of the stories we were required to read, but when we started “The Lottery” I felt an immediate attachment to it.  I loved the way Jackson describes the heightened tension–but without letting the reader in on the big surprise.  At the end, I was completely shocked as were the rest of the kids in my class.

Fast forward to nearly 15 years later.  As a Peace Corps volunteer in Estonia, I taught English as a foreign language.  My advanced class loved reading American and British literature and it was a good way to build their context clue reading skills.  Therefore, I gave them “The Lottery” to read.  And they loved it too.  Only one student foresaw the ending while the others were left in the dark as I was reading it for the first time as a kid.

As Utne Reader reports, when “The Lottery” first came out, readers of The New Yorker were horrified and disgusted, even canceling subscriptions and flooding Jackson with hate mail.  My, how times have changed.  As a society we’ve gotten much darker.  Is that a good thing?

Join us in celebrating “The Lottery” with our article entitled Shirley Jackson’s Outsider Perspective of Bennington, Vermont.

Announcement: Literary Traveler Goes Dark For October

September 16, 2010 in American literature, announcements, Dark New England, New England Travel

In the rich literary tradition of Photo via Matt Trostle's Flickr StreamAmerica, tales of the supernatural have always occupied a special place. Stories of the fantastic and the unreal have not only entered our imaginations, tainting the way we think about the very ground below us, but also the cannon of great literature. From Washington Irving to Edgar Allan Poe, we have always celebrated the authors that have the power to make our skin crawl and our nights restless.

This fall, Literary Traveler will feature a new theme for our feature articles: Dark New England. As the days lengthen, and All Hallows Eve approaches, we will be publishing several articles that center around some of America’s best horror writers, including Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. We will also highlight one of our favorite underrated writers: Shirley Jackson, author of The Lottery fame.

Join us as we journey to Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts in search of what makes New England so uniquely suited to images of ghosts and specters, stories of hauntings and awakenings.

Friday Links: Book News From Around The Internet

March 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

Every Friday, the staff at Literary Traveler gathers up the relevant book news from around the web, bringing it together in a handy post for book lovers to peruse.  EnjoyPhoto from!

  • In her piece on the immensely talented American author Shirley Jackson, Joan Schenkar introduces her subject as “Stanley’s wife,” which is, unfortunately, how she was seen for much of her life.  However, as Schenkar shows, Jackson was so much more than simply a wife – she was self-professed witch, a master of manipulation, and a true artist with words.  For more insights into Jackson and the literary culture of Bennington, Vermont, check out Shenkar’s piece in it’s entirety here.
  • Harry Potter fans will flock to the new ride at University Studios in Orlando, Florida.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open on June 18th and feature a virtual trip through the magical world of Hogwarts, including a stop at Ollivander’s Wand Shop and an interactive Quidditch match.  Sign me up.
  • Rest in peace Ai, award-winning poet and all-around admirable woman.  Born Florence Anthony, she changed her name to the Japanese word for love before receiving the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975 and the National Book Award for her poetry collection “Vice.”  Take a moment to mourn the literary loss and read her poetry here.
  • Books can take us many places, but one of my favorite places to explore through the written word is only a few steps away: My own kitchen.  There is something truly magical about a novel that can not only transport you in space and time, but also tickle your tastebuds.  With this in mind, let’s try to recall our favorite culinary moments (mine from the children’s book series Redwall) with this article from the Guardian on food and fiction.
  • Have you been following March Madness?  No?  Well for those of us more interested in the Food Court than the basketball court, here is a fun way to participate:  Book tournaments.
  • And finally, Tim O’Brien appeared at Barnes & Noble earlier this week to discuss The Things They Carried on the twentieth anniversary of its publication.  An audio recording of the interview, in which O’Brien discusses storytelling, his most famous work, and the tragic legacy of Vietnam,  is available online.
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