The Assignation

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Overview

A woman's lover seems not to recognize her on the street. A teenage girl accepts a ride from a stranger in a rust-speckled Cadillac. An old man is obsessed by the memory of his innocent childhood intrusion on a half-dressed aunt.

In forty-four very short, very powerful stories, Joyce Carol Oates fashions brief, intensely compact dramas out of the unwieldy material of human experience. The stories in The Assignation are infused with a "radiant intensity," wrote James Atlas in the...

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Overview

A woman's lover seems not to recognize her on the street. A teenage girl accepts a ride from a stranger in a rust-speckled Cadillac. An old man is obsessed by the memory of his innocent childhood intrusion on a half-dressed aunt.

In forty-four very short, very powerful stories, Joyce Carol Oates fashions brief, intensely compact dramas out of the unwieldy material of human experience. The stories in The Assignation are infused with a "radiant intensity," wrote James Atlas in the New York Times Book Review, and they convey the depth and scope of a novel in a few charged pages. The Assignation is an electric display of the talents that make Joyce Carol Oates one of our finest short story writers.

"Vintage Oates...Short, sharp shots from the master of moody foreboding."--Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 44 short narratives, ``Oates has captured precisely an essential presence and instant in the lives of her characters,'' commented PW. `` Logical as daydreams, with endings similarly as interrupted or unforeseen, these stories reveal a master of the form, writing at her efficient, full-tilt best .'' (Sept.)
Library Journal
From the ever-prolific Oates comes a collection of very short stories of sad romance. Her characters, thoughtful and disturbed, are familiar figures to her fans, and even some of the very brief stories flash and sparkle. Too often, however, this collection seems to consist of literary exercises and cast-offs from would-be novels, fragments without a story to bind them together. Emotional, sexy, and bleak, these snippets tantalize but rarely amount to much. For comprehensive collections. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880014403
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of the forthcoming novel The Gravedigger's Daughter. She is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Biography

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.

A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college -- a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate.

Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor -- from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize -- and her fiction turns up with regularity on The New York Times annual list of Notable Books.

On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades – familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence – she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."

Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.

Good To Know

When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.

Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s.

In 2001, Oprah Winfrey selected Oates's novel We Were the Mulvaneys for her Book Club.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Rosamond Smith
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 16, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lockport, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

Read an Excerpt

One Flesh



They are sitting at opposite ends of the old horsehair sofa waiting for something to happen. A rainy summer night, or is it a rainy autumn night, smelling of wet leaves. A muffled reedy music permeates the room like remembered music in which rhythm is blurred. One by one enormous soft-winged insects fly toward them, or scuttle above their heads on the ceiling. Several clocks tick in unison, sounding like a single clock.

The Assignation. Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2007

    A reviewer

    Nearly every story I read of this novel was magnificent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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