Source: The New Yorker Fiction Podcast (MP3)
Length: 32 min
Reader: A. M. Homes
The story: Somewhere in apple pie and general store America, a small town gathers for a yearly ritual: the lottery. Almost everyone, young and old, has assembled with a mixture of excitement and nervous energy. The older townspeople speak about memories of lotteries in the past, comparing the present protocol to how it used to be done. Expectations build as the preliminaries begin, leading up to the drawing.
This is a very famous story, at least in the U.S., and therefore has gathered a number of interpretations, from Christian to Marxist. Without giving away the ending, I cannot discuss these interpretations, but I do believe that, in addition to any other meaning, the story is about tradition. At the time when the story was written just after World War II, America had just been through a time of some of the most radical changes in its history. The lottery that the small town participates in is a constant, a holdover from their grandparents' day. Jackson respects this tradition. She shows the lottery as a source of pride for the town, but at the same time she makes it clear that even though it may bring people together, the objects of a tradition may not always be good.
The reader: Ms. Homes's reading reflects the quality of this piece. Her voice is quiet and calm, but with an underlying tension, just as in the story. The discussion at the end with fiction editor Deborah Treisman is enlightening. Included topics of conversation are one-hit writers, women authors in the 1940s, and the ghettoization of science fiction. As is typical for the NY'er fiction podcast, the production values are high. With all the belt-tightening going on in the media, I hope this podcast won't be one of the casualties.