The Lottery and Other Stories
I picked this up for the actual story "The Lottery," of course. Count this as another classic that I just never got under my belt in school. I knew the twist, of course, so I didn't feel any urgent need to run out and pick it up. But I saw a decent copy of the collection for just a couple bucks, used (and let me just say again, thank god for used paperbacks), so I grabbed it.
What a revelation! "The Lottery" is the last story in the collection, and I took my sweet time getting there. I kept this in the car as my lunchtime/between times book, and I wallowed in it every chance I got. No one told me that Jackson wrote so damn well! Little slices of people's lives, most of them passing slowly over some common misery or guilty failure, examining it clearly and with beautiful skill. "The Daemon Lover", with the slow crawl of the day when a wedding never happens (obvious to the reader, torture for the protagonist), especially exemplifies this.
You know, the story "Flower Garden" is sort of the real life companion to "The Lottery" itself. In both, neighborhood prejudices and mean little traditions have crippling consequences for everyone involved. Jackson was saying an awful lot of smart shit about race relations (and doing it in the 1940s! - there are people today who think they're putting out intelligent comments on race relations who use a lot more space to say a lot less than this story or "After You, My Dear Alphonse").
As for the story itself, "The Lottery" still slides under your skin even if you know where the sting comes in. Know what's even scarier, though? This is what Jackson later said about the massive amounts of hate mail she received when the story was first published:
The general tone of the early letters, however, was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.
final thoughts: This could just be a personal blind spot, but I think that too much is made of one story, detracting from the skill and, yes, possibly genius shown in her other work.