Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Lottery: Adventures of the Daemon Lover, by Shirley Jackson. Avon Books, 1949 (1960 reprint)

This is a collection of short stories, all rather grim. The Daemon Lover is James Harris in the story of that name, but he reappears in most of the later stories as different people of the same name. While Jackson is sometimes thought of as a horror writer because of ‘The Lottery’ and the novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, these stories do not have any supernatural elements to them – ‘The Lottery’, while rather horrific, is about human weirdness. Some of them *do* venture into the odd, however. These stories are about the quiet nastiness that humans inflict on each other every day- racism, snobbery, classism, alienation, sexism (especially sexism) and everyday cruelty fill this book. The characters are the kind of people we meet every day; there are no heroes or outright villains- but even the stories where nothing is overtly happening are filled with tension.

These stories were written in the 1940s, so it may be hard for readers to feel the stories are realistic depictions of everyday life. Thankfully, some of the assumptions made back then have fallen by the wayside, at least in most of the US. But despite the 40s settings, many of the stories remain pertinent. This is literary fiction, but literary fiction that may make the reader feel uncomfortable.

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