Thursday, June 1, 2017

Short fiction from Joyce Carol Oates

Dis Mem Ber and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense

Joyce Carol Oates

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Pub. Date: June 6, 2017

Rating" 4 out of 5 stars

It looks like Joyce Carol Oates, clearly a voracious writer, is putting out another short fiction collection close on the heels of the superlative The Doll-Master. Dis Mem Ber and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense collects all her published short stories from 2016. That entails seven in total. The precious collection was fully titled "The Doll-Master and other tales of terror". This new collection is correctly titled as tales of mystery and suspense as the horror aspect is toned down significantly. But the aspect of psychological dread remains in these tales. Oates' fiction is steeped in psychological nuances and these stories in Dis Mem Ber are no different. In fact, if you are looking for fiction with a punchline and a clear ending, I doubt if you will be happy with Oates. Yet if you want human frailty and complexity then she is the writer for you. There is a reason she is always mentioned in the "short list" of potential and future Nobel Prize winners in literature.

This collection is of the high quality you would expect from Oates but, at least for me, doesn't reach the high standard she made for herself in The Doll-Master. About four stories are excellent and hits me in my guts even with her subtleties. But the other three are more misses than hits. Of the successes, "Great Blue Heron" is the most beautifully written as it deals with a grieving widow who fantasizes over the predator bird on her lake with harrowing results. "Heartbreak" explores a competitive relationship between two young sisters and is the most directly powerful story of the lot. The title story examines similar young girl yearnings and fantasies of a young protagonist who may not be making the best decisions about who she hangs out with. "The Drowned Girl" is about a college student's obsession on a girl who drowned in a water tank. It's a sneaky little story about those dark obsessions that take us over. All four of these takes grabs on to some inner darknessof the reader just like the best Oates fiction is liable to do.

The other three works are of high quality but didn't really hold me. That is true especially for "Welcome to Friendly Skies!" which seems awkward. It may be possible evidence that humor is not the author's forte.

Yet four superlative stories of seven is not bad at all especially when the judgement is in the reader's subjective mind. What is unarguable is that any collection of Joyce Carol Oates will reward you with superb writing, dark imagery, and a glimpse into the human condition.

No comments:

Post a Comment