ABOUT THIS BOOK: 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.
MY THOUGHTS: I think that readers of Joyce Carol Oates fall into one of two camps. You either love her, or you don’t. After finishing this, the second collection of short stories by this author that I have read, I have come to the conclusion that I am firmly in the second camp.
Oates has a very distinctive writing style, one that I find difficult to enjoy. It could almost be described as ‘stream-of-consciousness’. I find it difficult to follow, and largely pointless. I hate to get to the end of a story and wonder why I bothered. There were several stories in this collection that I considered abandoning, and now I wish I had. I won’t be bothering to read this author again.
I did enjoy The Woman In the Window, but the rest of the stories left me feeling dissatisfied and disgruntled. I didn’t find any of the stories suspenseful.
Another thing that annoyed me is the author’s predilection for not giving the main character a name, referring to them as L___ or N___. Why? What is the point?
Just because I found this to be an unsatisfying read doesn’t mean that you won’t love it. This is my personal opinion, my reaction to the book. Most reviews for this book are positive, so if you enjoyed the excerpt, please go ahead and read Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates. You may well be one of the many who enjoy this book.
Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Night-Gaunts by Joyce Carol Oates for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.
This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com profile page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2251342907