June 26, 1948: “The Lottery” is published in The New Yorker

Shirley Jackson’s famous short story tells the chilling tale of a small American town and the horrific ritual - the “lottery” - that its residents practice each year. The story was received negatively, to both the magazine’s and author’s surprise; throughout the summer, Jackson reportedly received a dozen letters or messages a day - some speculative, and others full of, in the author’s words, “plain old-fashioned abuse”. One reader’s reaction (probably a common one) was “my only comment is what the hell?" Other readers suggested that the magazine had put the short story in to "get people talking". And, when asked by a reader what her story meant, Jackson simply replied: "I wish I knew."

Another interesting (and also rather grim) point Jackson noted about some of these letters:

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.

Other links:

The original story in The New Yorker’s archives.

  1. kv96ic28 reblogged this from unhistorical
  2. settlingspace reblogged this from unhistorical and added:
    Read it.
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  9. filibustering reblogged this from html-wings and added:
    Oh wow. The lottery was published on my birthday. Sweet.
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  17. worldtea reblogged this from unhistorical and added:
    I remember this!
  18. applebyas reblogged this from unhistorical and added:
    I remember reading this in school & thinking “what the fuck?” But now reading this, I want to go back and read it...
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  24. trinity-morgaine reblogged this from unhistorical and added:
    One of my favorite short stories, ever.
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