Those are not the winning numbers, at least not in Eric LeMay’s hybrid essay/ lottery system, Losing-Lottery. Before encountering the actually essay, you’ll be directed to pick 6 numbers. These are the numbers on your lottery ticket. After selecting them, you’ll see his essay on the left, and a program basically simulating a lottery being played over and over again with the numbers you chose. The essay is composed of 49 sections, which is the highest number you can choose for the Ohio Classic Lotto, the main focus of LeMay’s essay. Reading is pretty straight forward; you’ll simply click arrows to move forward or backwards through the essay.
While LeMay’s essay is a bit different from the other works we’ve encountered, I think it’s undoubtedly a work of electronic literature because it wouldn’t function the same way if read in any other way. When I say “different” I mainly mean that it’s a work of nonfiction. The different sections of the essay address different facets of the lottery, from how much Ohio spends and profits from it, to what certain winners have experience after winning, and personal anecdotes of LeMay’s family and their interactions with the lottery. At first, I was taking note of the numbers of the different sections, so I could reference them in this post. For instance, there is a section that talks about the etymology of the word “lottery,” and for me it was section 36. But in a different section, section 42, LeMay reveals that all of the sections (except the first) are random. You might have seen that coming, but I did not. I think that not only does the random order of the essay sections allude to the random number picking of the winning tickets, it also disrupts the reader’s sense of order. The numbered sections suggest that some sort of order is in place, when there actually isn’t. In the essay, LeMay writes about how the lottery makes it easier for people to deal with the large disparity between the rich and the poor. It gives people hope that their status can change. LeMay also notes that poorer neighborhoods spend more on the lottery than richer ones, and that the ancient Greeks believed hope was actually a great evil as it prolonged one’s torment. So since the lottery gives people hope, it also prolongs their torment by keeping them in their poverty.
Overall his essay provides really interesting insight into how the lottery affects people. He writes about people who lie about winning, people who make art with lottery tickets, people who collect used and unused tickets. And while you’re reading the essay, your six numbers that you selected in the beginning keep being tested to see if they’ve won. By the time I finished reading, I had spent over $80,000 on tickets, and only won around $11,000. There was a brief time where my winnings equaled fifty percent of my spending, but it didn’t last long. Seeing the numbers change while I was reading also had a unique effect. I could feel myself experience hope that I would match 6 numbers, frustration at much money I’ve spent, and sadness that I had not won much at all. Simultaneously experiencing a virtual lottery and reading about different people and their experiences with the lottery made me feel more invested and the reading feel more relevant.