The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

I just want to warn everyone that there will be major spoilers below. I’m sorry about that, but I need to discuss this disturbing little story somewhere. I am really hoping for comments on this one because I would love to hear other ideas on “The Lottery”. I need to be able to unpack this thing! This is my first read-through and, knowing Shirley Jackson, I really should have expected it to be disquieting. It completely sucked me in and I can’t stop thinking about it.

——HUGE SPOILERS BELOW——

“The Lottery” takes place in a small town, the sort of place where everyone knows each other. It follows the story of a lottery which the reader finds out is drawn annually, the winner ultimately being the loser, as they are stoned to death. I found it to be unsettling and engrossing, easily the best Shirley Jackson work I’ve read, and one that’s kept me thinking. There are themes of casual acceptance of violence and apathy toward change or improvement, which are chillingly still applicable today.

In the beginning of “The Lottery” the tone is almost lighthearted. The reader is given no clue that the story will end in such an upsetting way. The men talk about their crops; the children talk about school and eventually even start playing. The story says that “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” . With the picture the author has painted of a lighthearted ceremony, I wondered at first if the boys are grabbing stones to skip across a lake, or to use as a fort. Only at the end is it revealed that those very stones gathered by the children were to be used to stone someone to death- possibly even one of the very children who gathered the stones. The lottery has taken on a familiar feel to the participants, and almost seems to signal the beginning of a season. Certainly, no one seems to be upset or even reluctant to participate.

Despite the chilling violence that has taken place for years and years, no one questions or objects to the sacrificing of a life. In fact, when one woman points out that some places have stopped having lotteries, a man claims that there’s “nothing but trouble in that”. This is where I started to see a little beyond the surface, and felt rising tension. This “turn”, so to speak, is one that has served Jackson well in her other works, and it worked wonderfully here. The villagers accept the violence without argument, even encouraging their children to participate. There is almost a duality shown in the neighbors. They can talk about doing dishes one moment, and plan on stoning someone to death in the next. However, the ultimate protest of the person who has “won” the lottery, coupled with the relief of those who have not, shows that no one is quite comfortable with the situation. Not one of them steps in, says anything against it, or even foregoes the chance to throw a stone, though. This shows an apathy and unwillingness to take steps to change or improve. The keeping of tradition is the most important thing, no matter that the tradition is violent and wrong. Even the disheveled state of the lottery box, which has not been fixed, shows a stoic acceptance and indifference- perhaps even an active resistance- to changing or stopping the violence.

“The Lottery” isn’t just a creepy little tale: it’s a commentary on the acceptance of violence, and an unwillingness to question the status quo. This unwillingness to change anything, or even examine whether change needs to happen is still echoed today. Seen through that lens, “The Lottery” becomes at once both fascinating and disturbing. Can you see why I can’t stop thinking about it?

Have you read “The Lottery”? (I kind of hope so, if you’ve read this post, seeing as I posted spoiler after spoiler). What did you think? Did you get the same things out of it that I did?

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Invisible Library

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub is focusing on magic in fantasy novels all week. I have been fortunate to have guest authors and bookbloggers discussing the magic systems in books. It’s a broad subject and one that I find fascinating.

As all readers know, words have power. They can teach, evoke emotion, or even change a person’s perspective. Well, words have power in Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library in a more literal way. Today the Book Pyramid has joined the conversation to talk about magic in her excellent fantasy series.

The Book Pyramid:

Thank you Jodie for having me on your wonderful blog! There are so many intriguing and fascinating magic systems out there. When I start a new series, I am always hopeful that I will discover a new, interesting one, as it is one of the main elements of the Fantasy genre that really hooks me in for the ride. One of the most unique one I have discovered recently comes from the Invisible Library series, by Genevieve Cogman. In it, we are introduced to this inter-dimensional library that collects rare texts and books for parallel dimension versions of our world by sending their Librarians (really more like field agents) to retrieve their targets. These agents have been trained in many disciplines to survive the always different environments and threats of the many worlds they must travel to, but perhaps their most valuable skill is the power to use The Language.

The Language is the main magic system we are introduced to in The Invisible Library. I say “main” here as there are other forms of magic in the worlds our main character travels to, but the one at the centre of it all, the one being used by our protagonist, is The Language. Now what I thought was super interesting about The Language is that it has a set of very specific rules and boundaries. It cannot be used to summon elemental creatures or cast a fireball at your enemies, but instead it lets its users manipulate the world around them by talking to it, by issuing it commands. So while in some fantasy novels, magic users can be all-powerful gods who can wreck havoc on entire armies and lay waste to kingdoms with a flick of the wrist and an uttered word, our Librarian has to use her powers within the limits of what they can accomplish and that makes for some very compelling situations. 

That is not to say that The Language is not a versatile tool to have in your toolbox. Quite the contrary actually, as there are millions of ways you can interact with your environment and to make it do what you need to do. For example, you might speak The Language and say “Door, close and Lock!” If you are being pursued, but be careful, as every door that can “hear” your command will obey it. You might command Water to boil, museum figures to Come alive to help you out, or tell a gun to Jam and explode, but one who commands The Language always must be careful of using it in the exact way they need it to avoid what could be catastrophic consequences. 

While I am not one to look down on a good old fashion lightning bolt or healing spell, I found the intricacies of The Language to be very compelling. The fact that it allows its user to manipulate almost everything around them gives them an almost infinite array of tools to use in the right situation, while keeping the power level in check to maintain the sense that anything could go wrong at any time. An all powerful mage might be a very cool character, but they also might remove the sense of threat and danger that keep me invested in our character’s well being. I have read the first two book of this series and in each one the author finds new, unique ways for her heroine to use The Language to get herself out of all kinds of crazy predicaments. Magic systems are such an important part of the Fantasy genre and it always feels special when you find one you enjoy so much that you wish you were able to use it yourself. That is why I choose Genevieve Cogman’s The Language for this article. 

Maybe if I try…

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… did it work? 

About the blogger:

Max is a career book seller and long time book reader and collector. His passion for books is only rivaled by his unease at writing about himself in the third person. 
When he is not out camping or playing board games with his family, he can usually be found sitting near a window, wrapped up in a blanket and reading a Fantasy or Mystery novel, with a glass of his latest single malt found and his three-legged cat Peggy nearby.
You can read more of his stuff here:https://thebookpyramid.wordpress.com

Follow him on Twitter at: @BookPyramid

For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic-Let’s Talk Mistborn

Windward by S. Kaeth

Image result for windward by s kaeth
When dragons fight, mountains weep. In nests high in the mountains, dragons and dragonbonded share their lives, thoughts, feelings, and ambitions.Palon and her partner, the dragon Windward, are renowned among their nest for their flying skill. Their days are filled with everything she loves, especially riding the wind. Even being tasked with teaching their way of life to Tebah, a rebellious newly bonded teenager, can’t bring her down too much.But when treasures from the dragons’ hoards are found in Palon’s collection, her idyllic life comes crashing down. She battles to prove her innocence, while her every move is cast as further evidence against her. Tebah’s suspicion, homesickness, and defiance would be frustrating even in easy times. With Palon in the spotlight while her rivals smear her name at every turn and stir up plots of revenge, her teenage charge’s behavior proves dangerous.Dragon tempers shorten, and challenges and disputes shake the ground. Palon will have to trust more than just herself if she hopes to once more own the sky. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

Dragons!!!! Books are always better with dragons, in my opinion, and I absolutely loved how they were portrayed in this book. They didn’t take a back seat to the human characters; instead adding an extra layer of awesome. They were very tribal, and had a fully developed hierarchy, which was incredibly creative.

Another win for me with this book is how, instead of the dragons taking on human characteristics, their bonded humans instead became distinctly draconic. The humans each had their own hoards that they were very protective of, and they showed anger and submission just like their draconish counterparts.

The story-line was interesting, the main characters being Palon and her bondmate, the dragon Windward. Palon was impulsive and emotional, which made for an interesting read. She is accused of stealing from dragons in order to grow her own cache of treasures, and she needs to figure out who is framing her- and why. At the same time, she is tasked with training a new dragon-bonded pair.

The dragon Silver Spine, and the new bondmate were my favorite characters. They often gave a bit of a break from focusing just on Palon, just when she was in danger of becoming obnoxious. The differences in their personalities played off each other quite well.

If you like your fantasies distinctly draconic, read this book. It’s a fast read, and highly enjoyable.