I will admit freely that reading the Hunger Games was crushing to me. I cried like a little baby girl when they all stood and had to have their names in the draw and I knew that a name had to be picked. The book is amazing, but that scene, that scene of being drafted, of being chosen, of having to go was brutal to me.
I kept thinking of The Lottery, I kept thinking of Draft Day, I kept thinking of all the different stories where something is taken that nobody wants to give, and then of course I thought of my own son. He barely registered a blink when we registered him with selective service years ago, and if he decided to enlist I think it would be different. I think the idea of having no choice, the randomness is what rips me apart. It isn’t like we have a draft, and death is terribly random anyway, but that idea of an outside force taking what we love because a name was chosen and we follow the rules, ahhh lord that kills me.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a story that haunts me. I mean I’ve likely read that thing, or listened to it ten or fifteen times since the first time it creeped me the hell out in grade school. Yet the simpleness of the story, the ritual of the story, the familiarity of the story still creeps and freaks a person all these years later. How little would it surprise me to find out about a town with a black box full of names and regular stonings to maintain peace and prosperity.
Draft Day by Rattawut Lapcharoensap reminded me of The Lottery, and then when I read Hunger Games I was reminded of both stories. The sweet sad expectation that everything will be okay if you follow all the rules shines through in every word of this story. Even if you understand that it can’t be true because the game is totally fixed. As the narrator explains the rules and how everything is fixed, you can’t help hoping along with the mothers, hoping against the rules, hoping just because you don’t want potential to die. If you haven’t ever heard it, do yourself a favor and download the version that BD Wong does, he lends such an amazing depth to the story.
Is it fear of authority, fear of death, fear of not being in control that makes these stories so heart rending? What is it that makes them so memorable? The threat of menace? The group mentality? The fact that so many people go along, and we as readers have to go along as we read? Each page, each name, I want to protect the faces I see, I want to protest, but I just keep reading, even though I know the horrors that is coming for the characters in these stories. Maybe that is what keeps haunting me, my own complicity as an audience member. Maybe, but the stories are so damned good, I can’t help but be complicit, and haunted.