The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first collection of Jackson's that I have read, having only previously encountered "The Lottery", of course. The stories didn't quite live up to my expectations having only read two of her novels I expected stories that were rather strange or eerie but it didn't deliver on that score until the last five stories or so, by placing "The Lottery" last. The writing was well done and I'll continue to read the author's other work but some stories did feel cryptic with endings that I just didn't 'get'.

1. The Intoxicated - A drunken man at a party stumbles into the kitchen where he meets the teenage daughter of the house having a cup of coffee. He joins her and she proceeds to gleefully tell him of the upcoming end of the world as we know it. Very short and abrupt. (3/5)

2. The Daemon Lover - Deliciously creepy and suspenseful. Starting off ordinarily enough with a woman getting ready for her fiance to pick her up. Hours later he hasn't arrived and since he lives only several blocks away she takes a taxi to his house then traces his steps on his journey to hers. Really liked this. (4/5)

3. Like Mother Used to Make - This is an interesting story, quite innocent on the surface to start. At first, though, I got a Norman Bates vibe but quickly decided it wasn't going in that direction. But where was it going? A fastidious young man invites his messy downstairs neighbour for dinner and the course of events perplexed me. The main character, Davie, was intriguing. (4/5)

4. Trial by Combat - A woman who has lived in a boarding house for six weeks and has noticed that small insignificant items are vanishing from her rooms. Then one day she sees someone coming out of her room. She knows who it is. An odd little tale but I didn't find the ending satisfying. (2/5)

4. The Villager - This a circular story which reflects on people who come to New York to become artists, writers, dancers and such. The main character lives in Greenwich Village and came here 12 years ago to become a dancer but is a well-paid private secretary now. In the circular nature of the story, she meets an artist who made a success of himself and a young writer new to town. (3/5)

5. My Life with R.H. Macy - A weird little story which I don't get. About a woman working at Macy's and it being like a cult or something. (1/5)

6. The Witch - A four-year-old boy is on a train with his mother and baby sister. Looking out the window he makes up a little story about a witch. Then a man enters the cabin, sits down, and tells a gruesome story about his little sister. (3/5)

7. The Renegade - A typical 1950s housewife who has recently moved to the country receives a call one morning that the family dog has been caught killing chickens. The country seems to be affecting the whole family except her. This one is a bit macabre. (4/5)

8. After You, My Dear Alphonse - A boy brings a friend home for lunch. The mother sees that the friend is black and assumes he is poor. (3/5)

9. Charles - I've read this one before. A five-year-old starts Kindergarten and comes home every day with stories full of the misbehaving Charles. A shock comes at the end but I think it is easy to figure out. (4/5)

10. Afternoon in Linen - Two grandmothers visit for an afternoon tea. Each bringing a grandchild to have them perform so as to show off how one is more precocious than the other. But the little girl turns it into something quite uncomfortable. (3/5)

11.Flower Garden - A much longer (though still short) story than any other so far. This is a straightforward literary story with a punch. It tells the tale of a recently widowed city woman who moves to a small cottage in a little town. Everyone is very nice to her but when she invites a local black man to work her garden every day, opinion of her changes quickly. A good story that shows the two-facedness of racists.(4/5)

12. Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors - A good read even though the story was a bit strange. Two girls are terrified of sailors because of the dire warnings their mother and grandmother continuously give them. (3/5)

13. Colloquy - This is only two pages but is about the feelings of disorientation and alienation from a world one know longer feels culturally or morally connected with. (2/5)

14. Elizabeth - A character study more than anything. Elizabeth is a 30-something woman who moved to New York 11 years ago from a small town. Now she is a partner in a literary agent's office and has a relationship with the other partner, who thinks he is in charge while Elizabeth is the brains and holds things together. Throughout the story, Elizabeth realizes she is not happy and has dreams. (3/5)

15. A Fine Old Firm - Odd, rather boring. Two women who just met have a conversation. I guess the point is that their sons are best buddies in the army and it took that distance for the two women to meet. (2/5)

16. The Dummy - I'm not really seeing the point in these stories. Two women go out for dinner, one is very negative while the other is an optimist. After a ventriloquist performs, he, his dummy and girlfriend sit at a table near the ladies who can't help but overhear the conversation. An unexpected ending. (3/5)

17. Seven Types of Ambiguity - As far as I can tell this is about doing a disservice to a stranger who has selflessly helped you out immensely. It takes place in an old bookstore which makes it a fun literary read. (3/5)

18. Come Dance With Me in Ireland - Three ladies are visiting the youngest one who has a baby. There is a knock on the door and it is an old man selling laces. They take pity on him and give him a quarter, then when he seems unwell bring him into the apartment. Two of the ladies insist he is starving while the other assumes he is drunk. We find out by the end which. Honestly, this was not good. (1/5)

19. Of Course - Mrs. Tyler watches the new neighbour moving in and when the children say "hi" to each other she comes out to meet the woman hoping they will be nice neighbours. As they talk, she slowly realizes they are going to be annoying. (3/5)

20. Pillar of Salt - Finally, a creepy story. A man and woman take a trip to New York for the first time in a year. As soon as they arrive the woman notices that everything sounds, feels, and smells somehow different. Everything looks like it is falling apart. Then one day at the beachside they find a dismembered leg washed ashore and are told an arm was found upriver a few days back. Once back at the apartment, the woman starts to have, what we would call today, a full-blown panic attack. (4/5)

21. Men With Their Big Shoes - New to town, a young newly married and recently pregnant woman is ensnared by her dominant housekeeper. Looks like all the really good stories are at the end! (4/5)

22. The Tooth - A woman goes to New York to have a molar pulled. She's in a daze and sleeps most of the time as she traveled by night and took several sedatives as she left. She meets a mysterious man who seems to belong with her and things get slightly strange. Not sure I understand the ending. (4/5)

23. Got a Letter From Jimmy - Very short and strange. A woman thinks about killing her husband and burying him in the basement because he won't open a letter from Jimmy. We are never told who Jimmy is. (3/5)

24. The Lottery - The most famous and classic story in this book. It is shorter than I remember but just as alarming. In case you haven't read it yet I will be vague. It starts with a small town gathering for a yearly lottery held in the town centre. There is perfect foreshadowing of what will happen but the story slowly reveals its plot to the reader which makes the ending, about the nature of man, quite chilling. (4/5)


  1. This sounds like a delightful collection.

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