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Ghost stories

Published by The Economist on Fri, 23 Sep 2016


Hidden turmoilShirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. By Ruth Franklin. Liveright; 607 pages; $35 and 25.NEARLY 70 years after it was first published, Shirley Jackson's short story, 'The Lottery', is still chilling. It begins benignly: on an otherwise 'clear and sunny' day, every household in an unnamed village gathers to draw lots. But this unfussy account of an arcane local ritual ends with screams. 'It isn't fair,' cries the woman with the marked slip as everyone, even her own children, pelts her with stones.Never before had the New Yorker, which printed the story, received so much mail about a work of fiction. Calling it 'shocking' and 'pointless', many outraged readers cancelled their subscriptions. Others were simply confused. Jackson, then a 31-year-old mother of two and pregnant again, wrote the story in a single sitting, but was never able to offer consistent explanation for what it was about. The notion that otherwise ordinary villagers were capable of such extraordinary inhumanity seemed fairly obvious to her, especially after...Continue reading
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