Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Way We Live Now

Today is Saturday, 26 June 2010.

For decades, a staple of American high school English classes has been “The Lottery”, a short story by Shirley Jackson, which was published in The New Yorker on this date in 1948.

In a 1960 lecture, Jackson recalled:

"Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters [sent to her at The New Yorker] of that first summer—three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation and plain old-fashioned abuse. In the years since then, during which the story has been anthologized, dramatized, televised, and even—in one completely mystifying transformation—made into a ballet, the tenor of letters I receive has changed. I am addressed more politely, as a rule, and the letters largely confine themselves to questions like what does this story mean? The general tone of the early letters, however, was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch." (Collected in Jackson’s Come Along with Me, 1968)

“…whether they could go there and watch”. Obviously, “reality” television is not an aberration, but a fitting response to a deep longing in the American psyche. A form of denial, or merely a diversion from enjoying actual wars and famines on the news?

Herewith, a link to the story:


Post a Comment

<< Home