|Illustration by Anita Stevens Rundles|
Americans all seem to want to win the lottery, even though the idea is a ludicrous waste of time and a distraction from anything that might improve their actual lives. What they don’t realize is that they’re already living inside a “lottery” — Shirley Jackson’s.
At Joseph Bryan Judd’s book store yesterday, I bought a book of Jackson’s stories, including The Lottery, because I realized that it’s Trump’s America summed up — happy small-town families selecting innocent people to torture to death in a ritual that satisfies their smug tribal traditions and vanities. Then they go shopping.
The now-classic tale inspired surprisingly violent denunciations from New Yorker readers when it was published in 1948.
“It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from being uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open,” Jackson said. “Of the 300-odd letters that I received that summer I can count only 13 that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from friends. Even my mother scolded me: ‘Dad and I did not care at all for your story in The New Yorker,’ she wrote sternly; ‘It does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story is what all you young people think about these days. Why don't you write something to cheer people up?”
Those stones struck too close to home, didn’t they?