Books “A stone hit her on the side of the head.”
posted by June 26 at 16:31 PMon
On this day, 60 years ago, The New Yorker published “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson.
People flipped the fuck out—cancelled subscriptions, wrote bags of hate mail. The story was banned outright in South Africa and, according to Wikipedia, ranked seventeenth on Playboy’s list of books most banned by public high schools in the U.S.
It’s still one of my most vivid reading memories. I was sitting in a classroom in Lexington, Massachusetts (I must’ve been in fifth or sixth grade), in one of those old desks where the hard-plastic writing surface is attached to the chair by a metal bar on the right-hand side. The bar, for some reason, was always chilly.
It was reading time and, having brought nothing to read, pulled an oversized, hardback anthology of short stories off the shelf in the back of the classroom. I read it lazily, only halfway paying attention, until the last two paragraphs, which made me feel funny inside—nauseated and a little afraid. I had, at that time, never read anything that had changed my emotional weather so quickly and thoroughly.
Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. “It isn`t fair,” she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.
Still making me feel funny, after all these years.
Happy birthday, “The Lottery.”