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Shirley Jackson Wins the Lottery

The late author — a master of the unnerving and the truly terrifying — gets a revival

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Remember Shirley Jackson’s deeply creepy short story “The Lottery”? The one you had to read in middle school about a housewife who draws the unlucky number and gets stoned to death in the village square? Well, Jackson’s number has come up too — but instead of getting ritually sacrificed, she’s being resurrected.

When she died in 1965 at age 48, Jackson left behind scores of short stories and six neo-gothic novels permeated with her favorite topics: the depravity lurking beneath New England’s quaint veneer, the isolation of women struggling in family roles, and the uncanny terror of houses that slowly drive their inhabitants mad. If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because Jackson has seeped into many an author’s subconscious. Stephen King touts The Haunting of Hill House as one of the “great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years.”

Some of Jackson’s work had been forgotten by the time the Library of America issued a volume of her fiction, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, in 2010. Then last October Guillermo del Toro curated a series of horror novels for Penguin and included The Haunting of Hill House. Penguin Classics has finished reissuing the rest of Jackson’s novels as well as a collection of short stories, and a new audience seems to be finding the books (she was just named Flavorwire’s author of the month). Penguin Classics editorial director Elda Rotor isn’t surprised by Jackson’s newfound appeal: “She has this wonderful observation of how cruel people can be on a day-to-day basis to each other,” Rotor says. “And she knows the scariest place is the interior of your mind.”

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