Raincoast Books kindly sent me two books, twists on classic stories I have never read before.

I picked up Miles Hyman’s graphic novel version of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery as I like graphic novels, and wanted to read something different. Hyman, who lives in Paris, is the grandson of Jackson, “a towering figure in 20th century gothic fiction.” The short story, The Lottery, is considered her masterpiece, according to the bio on the book.

I started reading the graphic novel without any idea of what it was about, instead letting Hyman pull me into a town, the night before the winner of the lottery was picked. At first I was frustrated about whatever this lottery was. I hoped they would eventually tell me. When the lottery winner was chosen, with Tessie as the ‘winner’, I was annoyed at her because she was complaining about it not being fair. Until then end.

Spoiler alert.

The end. A day after reading this book, it still makes me mad, and disgusted. I realize this is a fictitious story, with fictitious people, but, as enotes.com suggested when I looked up why The Lottery is considered classic, it’s likely the idea, or theme of the story, that is making my blood boil.

According to enotes, there are a number of themes that run through this short story, including the idea of continuing traditions without thought – or reason.

In the case of The Lottery, it’s the tradition of picking someone to be stoned to death that is making me feel so angry. Are people really that stupid that they would pick up a rock and throw it at their mother, their father or their child? And sadly, yes, I think people are that stupid. I can imagine people saying we have always done this, so let’s make a pile of rocks and keep throwing it at someone until he or she is dead. Why? Because it tradition. We have always done it, so it must be right. The good-old days weren’t always good, people.

The idea of tradition always makes me think of a story told to me by one of my teachers at one point in my life. She said her mother, and her grandmother before her, always cut the end off a roast before cooking it, so she did the same. One day she had someone over who asked her why she did that? She said that is the way it was always done. She then asked her mother why her grandmother cut the roast. The reason – the roast were grandmother bought was too big for the roasting pan. Which shows why we need to always ask why.

So while I didn’t like the story, I thought Hyman did a fabulous job of adapting it. When I got to the end of Hyman’s book, and my jaw was on the ground, I found Jackson’s short story and read it. There was nothing in there that Hyman didn’t include, and the stuff he left out wasn’t a big deal. The graphics were fabulous as well.

guineapig

A Guinea Pig Oliver Twist or, The Parish Boy’s

I read my eight-year-old son A Guinea Pig Oliver Twist or, The Parish Boy’s. I have never read the full version of the story by Charles Dickens so I do not know how much was cut in order to make it a child’s book featuring a dress-up cast of rescue Guinea pigs. I had to explain to my son how life was very different for children – everyone really – at the time of the story, and stop to explain words and phrases so different from what we would say. My son wanted me to read to the end, which I did, but neither of us enjoyed the story.

The Guinea pigs were cute though.

A Guinea Pig Oliver Twist or, The Parish Boy’s

Bloomsbury, www.bloomsbury.com

$19

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, The authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman

Hill and Wang, A division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, www.fsgbooks.com

$22.99

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