By: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Publication Date: 6/5/2018
My Rating: 3 Stars
In the title story of her taut new fiction collection, Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense, Joyce Carol Oates writes: Life was not of the surface like the glossy skin of an apple, but deep inside the fruit where seeds are harbored. There is no writer more capable of picking out those seeds and exposing all their secret tastes and poisons than Oates herself―as brilliantly demonstrated in these six stories.
The book opens with a woman, naked except for her high-heeled shoes, seated in front of the window in an apartment she cannot, on her own, afford. In this exquisitely tense narrative reimagining of Edward Hopper’s Eleven A.M., 1926, the reader enters the minds of both the woman and her married lover, each consumed by alternating thoughts of disgust and arousal, as he rushes, amorously, murderously, to her door. In “The Long-Legged Girl,” an aging, jealous wife crafts an unusual game of Russian roulette involving a pair of Wedgewood teacups, a strong Bengal brew, and a lethal concoction of medicine. Who will drink from the wrong cup, the wife or the dance student she believes to be her husband’s latest conquest?
In “The Sign of the Beast,” when a former Sunday school teacher’s corpse turns up, the blighted adolescent she had by turns petted and ridiculed confesses to her murder―but is he really responsible? Another young outsider, Horace Phineas Love, Jr., is haunted by apparitions at the very edge of the spectrum of visibility after the death of his tortured father in “Night-Gaunts,” a fantastic ode to H.P. Lovecraft.
Reveling in the uncanny and richly in conversation with other creative minds, Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense stands at the crossroads of sex, violence, and longing―and asks us to interrogate the intersection of these impulses within ourselves.
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Praise for Night-Gaunts
“The Woman in the Window” is included in The Best American Mystery Stories 2017
Praise for Joyce Carol Oates
“Few writers better illuminate the mind’s most disturbing corners.”―Seattle Times, “The 10 best mysteries of 2015,” on Jack of Spades
“Oates’s brand of horror has never required the invocation of other worlds: This world is terrible enough for her. Everything she writes, in whatever genre, has an air of dread, because she deals in vulnerabilities and inevitabilities, in the desperate needs that drive people . . . to their fates. A sense of helplessness is the essence of horror, and Oates conveys that feeling as well as any writer around.”―New York Times Book Review, on The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror
“Does any writer around do literary creepy like Joyce Carol Oates? . . . The stories always have an undercurrent of menace poised to break through at any moment.”―St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror
“A dazzling, disturbing tour de force of Gothic suspense.”―Boston Globe, on Evil Eye
“This writer is extraordinary not because she produces such huge amount, but because what she produces is so consistently good. And short stories show her invention, economy and control at its best . . . Oates perfectly captures the atmosphere of fear and well-meaning misunderstanding.”―Times (UK), on High Crime Area
“Oates creates worlds and minds as overwrought and paranoid as anything a female Poe could imagine, then sprinkles her trademark exclamation points licentiously through the interior monologues to heighten the intimacy between ecstasy and madness.”―Kirkus Reviews, on DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense
About the Author
PHOTO CREDIT: POINT LOMA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of such national bestsellers as The Falls, We Were the Mulvaneys, and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the President’s Medal for the Humanities, and the National Book Award. Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Read More