Random Thoughts: A gendered reading of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

I’ve been thinking about Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery, which was the starting point for the October 2021 Six Degrees of Separation. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the character Tessie, and what she represents for me. I found a few essays online analysing the story in relation to public reaction, symbolism, the purpose of ritual, even Marxist theory. I didn’t find anything about gender roles that satisfied me, though, so I decided to marshall my random thoughts on the subject here.

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The Woman in Black: A ghost story

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Read 19/08/2021-22/08/2021

Rating 2.5 stars

My seventh book for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge is Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. It’s the story of Arthur Kipps, a solicitor who recalls an encounter with a ghost in the early days of his career that brings tragedy to his life.

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famished

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Read 16/12/2020-23/12/2020

Rating 4 stars

famished is a collection of ultra short stories by Anna Vaught. The minimalist, modernist cover contains 17 baroque horror stories, all centred on food or eating, and influenced by writers from Angela Carter, Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe to F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and Carson McCullers.

These tales are strongly feminist, peopled by women who are taking control. The subtext is often ‘eat, or be eaten’. Continue reading

Boy Parts

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Read 11/07/2020-12/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 5 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

I find it hard to believe that Boy Parts is Eliza Clark’s debut novel. It’s confident, fiercely funny and its chattiness belies the darkness at its heart.

Not since Chuck Pahlaniuk have I felt so delighted to be entertained by the vagaries of human nature. Not since James Kelman has a writer captured so well for me the hard edge of working class play and working class survival. Not since the translation of Virginie Despante’s Vernon Subutex trilogy into English have I been so pleased to meet a character that is so grotesquely charming. Continue reading

Exercises in Control

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Read 22/01/2020-26/01/2020

Rating 3 stars

This slim volume of short stories by poet and fiction writer Annabel Banks is one of my chosen books from my Influx Press subscription. It’s a challenging and entertaining read. There are moments of real discomfort mixed up with the laughs provoked by Banks’s ability to skewer human nature. Continue reading

The Bloody Chamber

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Read 04/04/2019-11/04/2019

Rating 4 stars

Angela Carter’s collection of re-imagined folk tales and fables presents tales originally told to the detriment of women as bold stories of female resilience and triumph. Inspired by, among others, Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, Carter has her heroines rise up against their male oppressors and find freedom. Continue reading

Fever Dream

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Read 04/04/2019

Rating 5 stars

Fever Dream is a short, brilliant book. It’s hard to review without giving things away, but suffice to say that Samanta Schweblin has delivered a masterpiece in suspense writing and translator Megan McDowell has done a cracking job of putting the Spanish into English.
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