Joyce Carol Oates
I was late coming to Joyce Carol Oates. For some reason I had her down as the writer of domestic, sentimental novels. She came more into focus when I read a review of A Widow’s Story, her 2009 memoir about the death of her husband, and seeing one of her short story collections in a library one day, I took it out. I only read one story – Bonobo Momma – but it was quite brilliant, an almost perfect modern American short story. At some later point I read about her experiments in gothic fiction, and intrigued, I bought a collection called Give Me Your Heart. I was completely blown away. Two stories in particular stood out for me – Strip Poker and Vena Cava. The compelling forward momentum of Strip Poker is awesome, the sense of dread almost unbearable. I’ve just finished another collection of her gothic tales called The Doll-Master which was every bit as good. Big Momma was a seriously creepy tale but for me the stand-out story was one called Equitorial. Brilliant, profound and heart-breaking. In these collections JCO writes stories that are a delicious mix of genres – crime, horror and psychological thriller – and although ‘literary’, hers is a literariness that is imbued with a hundred years of cinema and TV history.
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