Titles by the Author
Shirley Jackson, Like O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe before her, is best known as a short story writer. By combining the best known elements of these two writers - the horror stories of Poe and the surprise endings of O. Henry - she produced her most famous work, The Lottery.
Jackson was born in San Francisco in 1919, and lived there until 1940 when she entered Syracuse University. At Syracuse she met and married Stanley Hyman, a critic who later served as her editor. The couple moved to a small town in Vermont, where both pursued their literary careers. Jackson was in demand as a magazine writer and sold many articles. Her first novel, The Road through the Wall, was published in 1948. Later that year, with the publication of The Lottery in The New Yorker, she achieved tremendous fame.
The Lottery was hailed by some critics as the perfect short story. On the surface it seems to be an account of an unremarkable small town tradition. But despite a wealth of hints and foreshadowing, its shattering ending comes as a shock, and throws the entire story into a different light.
The skillful construction, the horror, and the genuinely unexpected twist at the end made The Lottery a favorite with English teachers as well as readers, and it is one of the most frequently anthologized American short stories. It is a testimony to the strength of the tale that despite years of microscopic examination it has retained its power as an enjoyable, if disconcerting, reading experience.
The techniques that characterized The Lottery have also served well in Jackson's novels. She is able to examine human madness by exaggerating normal tendencies until they appear abnormal. Far from being hysterical or overblown, her horror stories depend on the subtle growth of an atmosphere of horror that seems to smother the reader as the story unfolds.
Ironically, while Jackson made her reputation writing psychological horror stories, her personal life was quite normal, except for occasional dabbling in withcraft. Happily married, she raised four children in an idyllic rural community, and recorded her experiences in a series of magazine articles and in two autobiographical books, Life among the Savages and Raising Demons. She continued ot write short stories and articles until the time of her death in 1965.