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Black Dahlia & White Rose: Stories

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Overview

Unafraid to venture into no-man's-lands both real and surreal, Oates takes readers deep into dangerous territory in eleven stories that showcase the keen rewards of her relentless brio and invention. Whether charting the inner lives of two beautiful and mysteriously doomed women in 1940s Los Angeles—Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia, and her roommate, Norma Jeane Baker, soon to become Marilyn Monroe—the psychological compulsion of a well-to-do businessman's wife who is ravished by, and elopes ...

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Black Dahlia & White Rose

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Overview

Unafraid to venture into no-man's-lands both real and surreal, Oates takes readers deep into dangerous territory in eleven stories that showcase the keen rewards of her relentless brio and invention. Whether charting the inner lives of two beautiful and mysteriously doomed women in 1940s Los Angeles—Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia, and her roommate, Norma Jeane Baker, soon to become Marilyn Monroe—the psychological compulsion of a well-to-do businessman's wife who is ravished by, and elopes with, a lover who is not what he seems, or the uneasily duplicitous relationships between young women and their parents, Black Dahlia & White Rose explores the menace that lurks at the edges of and intrudes upon even the seemingly safest of lives—and maps with rare emotional acuity the transformational cost of such intrusions.

Co-winner of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“[A] masterfully honed collection of dark tales… With precision and force, the ever-mesmerizing Oates rips open the scrim of ordinariness to expose the chaos that undermines every human notion of control, reason, and sanctuary.”
Library Journal
Deluxe author Oates offers a collection of 11 previously uncollected stories, including a title piece that tracks the friendship between Elizabeth Short, famously known as the Black Dahlia, the victim of a markedly brutal murder in 1940s Los Angeles that remains unsolved, and her roommate, Norma Jeane Baker—who of course became Marilyn Monroe. The 25,000-copy first printing seems a bit low.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062195708
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/29/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 444,773
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. She 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.

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

Black Dahlia & White Rose


By Joyce Carol Oates

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Joyce Carol Oates
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-219569-2


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

BLACK DAHLIA & WHITE ROSE: Unofficial Investigation into the (Unsolved) Kidnapping- Torture- Rape- Murder- Dissection of Elizabeth Short, 22, Caucasian Female, Los Angeles, CA, January 1947 Material assembled by Joyce Carol Oates

K. KEINHARDT— PHOTOGRAPHER: They were lost girls looking for their fathers. So I knew they'd come crawling back to me.

NORMA JEANE BAKER: It is true that I was lost— but I knew that no one would find me except myself— if I became a Star in the sky of Hollywood where I could not be hurt.

He was the one— "'K.K."' we called him— who took pictures for the girlie mags & calendars— the one I begged "'Please don't make me into a joke. Oh please that is all I ask of you.

ELIZABETH— "'BETTY"'— SHORT: Nasty lies told about me postmortem, but none nastier than that I did not have an actual father— only just a pretend father like Norma Jeane whose crazy mother would show her studio publicity photos of Clark Gable— whispering in the child's ear, "'Here is your father, Norma Jeane! But no one must know— yet."'

Poor Norma Jeane! Some part of her believed this craziness, why she was always looking for Daddy. Why Norma Jeane made bad mistakes seeking men like she did, but that was not why I made my bad mistake winding up postmortem in a weedy vacant lot in a dingy neighborhood of Los Angeles so mutilated the hardened LAPD detectives shrank from seeing me & quickly covered my "'remains"' with a coat for I had an actual father named Cleo Marcus Short who favored me above my four sisters Kathryn & Lucinda & Agnes & Harriet & wrote to me solely, in 1940, when I was sixteen, to invite me to live with him in California— which Daddy would not have done if he had not truly loved me.

Postmortem— is the Latin term. Postmortem is this state I am in, now. That you do not know exists when you are "'alive"' & you cannot guess how vast & infinite postmortem is for it is all of the time— forever & ever— after you have died.

Later, Daddy would deny me. Daddy would be so shocked & disgusted by the newspaper headlines & photos— (which were not the coroner's photos or the LAPD crime scene photos which could not be published of course— too ugly & "'obscene"')— but photos of Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. THE BLACK DAHLIA— (for since the age of eighteen when I came to L.A., I wore tight fitting black dresses with dipping necklines & often black silk trimmed in lace & undergarments as well in black & my hair glossy- black & my skin pearly- white & my mouth flame- red with lipstick)— which were glamour photos striking as any stills from the studios— Daddy refused to identify me still less "'claim"' me— the (mutilated, dissected) remains of me in the L.A. coroner's morgue. Or maybe Daddy thought he would have to pay some fee. He would have to pay for a burial, Daddy would fear.

Oh, that was mean of Daddy! To tell the L.A. authorities he would not drive to the morgue to make the "'I.D."' (For there is no law to compel a citizen in such circumstances, it seems.) If Daddy had not already broke my heart this sad news postmortem would do it.

But that was later. That was January 1947. When you were all reading of THE BLACK DAHLIA shaking your hypocrite heads in revulsion & chastisement A girl like that. Dressing in all black and promiscuous, it is what she deserves.

When Daddy wrote to me, to summon me to him, it was three years before. I had dropped out of South Medford High School to work (waitress, movie house cashier) to help Momma with the household for we were five daughters & just Momma and no father to provide an income for we had thought that Daddy was dead & what a shock—Daddy was not dead but alive.

Cleo Short had been a quite successful businessman selling miniature golf courses! All of us brought up swinging miniature golf clubs & hitting teeny golf balls & our photos taken— five short daughters of Medford businessman Cleo Short take to the "'miniature links"'— & published widely in Medford & vicinity for we were all pretty girls especially (this is a fact everyone acknowledged, this is not myopinion) "'Betty"' who was the middle sister of the five and the most beautiful by far. & Then the Depression which hit poor Daddy hard & soon collapsed lapsed into bankruptcy & utterly shamed so Daddy drove to the Mystic River Bridge & what happened next was never made clear but Daddy's 1932 Nash sedan was discovered on the riverbank & not Daddy, anywhere— so it was believed that Cleo Marcus Short was a tragic suicide of the Depression as others had been, & declared dead two years later, & Momma collected $3,000 insurance & was now officially a widow & we were bereaved for our beloved daddy, for years.

Oh but then one day a letter came postmarked Vallejo, Cal! & the shocking news like in a fairy tale that Cleo Short was not dead in the Mystic River as we had believed but "'alive and well"' in Vallejo, California!

Momma would not reply to this letter, Momma had too much pride. Momma's heart had turned to stone in the aftermath of such deception, as she called it.

& Bitterness, for Momma had to pay back the $3,000 insurance which had been spent years before. In doing so Momma had to borrow from relatives & wherever else she could & out of our salaries we helped Momma pay & everyone in Momma's family was hateful toward Daddy for this trick as they called it of a callow heart.

Of the five daughters of Cleo Short only one would forgive him. Only one would write back to him & soon travel to live with him in faraway California in a new life that beckoned.

For the old life was used up & of no promise, in Medford, Mass. And the golden California life beckoned— Los Angeles & Hollywood. Betty you're a terrific gal & sure the beauty of the Short females. Look at you!

It did not seem a far fetched idea to Betty Short as to Cleo Short or anyone who knew them, that daughter Betty was pretty enough & "'sexy"' enough to be a movie star one day.

That was a happy time, those months then.

They did not last long but Norma Jeane said to me when we were new & shy to each other sharing a room in Mr. Hansen's "'mansion"' on Buena Vista Avenue, "'Oh Betty you are so lucky!"' for Norma Jeane said she had not ever glimpsed her father even from a distance but now that she'd been on the covers of Swank & Stars & Stripes maybe he would see her & recognize her as his. & if ever she was an actress on screen he would see & recognize her— she was sure of this.

(Poor Norma Jeane had faith, if she worked hard & made the right connections among the Hollywood men, like all of us, she would become a star like Betty Grable, Lana Turner, & earlier Jean Harlow, who was Norma Jeane's model & idol. It was so: Norma Jeane was very beautiful in a simpering baby way with a white rose-petal skin that was softer than my skin even & did not show fatigue in her face as I did, sometimes. We were not jealous of Norma Jeane for she was so young seeming though at this time nineteen years old which is not so young in Hollywood. We laughed at Norma Jeane, she was so trusting & innocent & you had to think, hearing her weak whispery voice, Norma Jeane Baker was just not smart & mature enough to make her way in the shark waters where her white limbs would be torn off in the predators' teeth.)

It was the New Year of 1947 when this terrible act was perpetrated upon me. That was a later time.

We did not crawl back to that bastard K.K.! Except he owed us money, he'd kept promising to pay. & he knew "'gentlemen"'— he said—of a "'dependable quality"' & not the kind waiting like sharks in the surf for some trusting person to wade out.

Anyway— I didn't crawl to K.K. like he boasted. Betty Short did not crawl for any man not ever.

So it was the Bone Doctor inflicted such hurt upon me: that I would not submit to him in the disgusting way he wished. For not even $$$ can be enough, in such a case.

Of course— I did not know what would befall me. I did not know what my little cries No! No- no- NO! would unleash in the man, who had seemed till then a sane & reasonable man, a man who might be handled by any shrewd girl like Betty Short!

Postmortem you would not guess that I had had dignity and poise in life as well as milky-skinned brunette beauty though it is true that I had not (yet) a film career— even a "'starlet"' contract like many girls of our acquaintance at the Hollywood Canteen. (Norma Jeane Baker had not a real contract yet, either— though she led people to think she did.) Postmortem seeing me naked & white-skinned (for my body had totally bled out) & covered in stab wounds & lacerations— my legs spread open in the most ugly & cruel way in mockery— & my torso separated from my lower body & twisted slightly from it as if in revulsion for the horror perpetrated upon me— postmortem you would not guess that I had been a vivacious young woman whom many men admired in Hollywood & LA. & a favorite at parties & very popular with well-to-do older men & Hollywood producers & Mr. Mark Hansen, who owned the Top Hat Club & Mesa Grande movie house & invited me to live in his "'mansion"' on Buena Vista with other girls— (some were "'starlets"' & others aspiring to that status)— to "'entertain"' guests. Dr. M. was not one of these. Dr. M. was known by no one except K.K.— & Betty Short.

It was such cruelty— to ask if he might kiss me & when I shut my eyes, to press the chloroform cloth against my nose & mouth!

For in the romance movies always the kiss is with shut eyes—the camera is close up to the woman's beautiful smooth face & long-lashed shut eyes.

And the romance music.

Except in actual life— there is no music. Only the sound of the man's grunting & the girl trying to draw breath to scream, to scream, to scream— in silence.

& Such cruelty, to slash the corners of my mouth smiling in terror & hope to "'charm"'— slashing my mouth to my ears so that my face that had been a beautiful face would become a hideous clown-face that can never cease grinning.

& My breasts that were milky-pale & beautiful— so stabbed & mutilated, the hardened coroner could barely examine.

& The autopsy revealed contents of my stomach too filthy & shameful to be stated— the man would subordinate the girl utterly in all ways, & why could not be imagined ...

What I am hoping you will comprehend— if you would listen to my words & not stare in horror & disgust at the "'remains"' of me— (the morgue photos have been published & posted everywhere in the years following— there is no escape from shame & ignominy, in death— the two halves of me "'separated"' with a butcher knife the Bone Doctor wielded laying my lifeless body on two planks across a bathtub— in the house on Norfolk, that I had never seen before in all of my life— with this knife the cruel maniac tore & sawed at my midriff— my pearly pale skin that was so beautiful & desirable— that my blood would fall & drain into the tub— & these halves of my body he would wrap in dirty plastic curtains to carry away to dispose of like trash in a public place to create a spectacle for all to stare at in revulsion & titillation enduring for years)— if you would listen to my words post postmortem, I am trying to explain that though Norma Jeane has become famous throughout the world, as MARILYN MONROE, it was a chance thing at the time in January 1947, it was a wisp of a chance, fragile as those feathery spiraling seeds of trees in the spring blown in the wind & catching in your hair & eyelashes— it was not a decreed thing but mere chance that Norma Jeane would become MARILYN MONROE & Elizabeth Short would become THE BLACK DAHLIA pitied & scorned in death & not ever understood, & the cruelest lies spread about me. What I am saying is that if you'd known us, Betty Short & Norma Jeane Baker, in those days, when we were roommates & close as sisters you would not have guessed which one of us would ascend to stellar heights & which would be flung into the pits of Hell, I swear you would not.

K.K. had photographed Norma Jeane when she was working in a factory in Burbank— but she'd never do a nude for him, she said. A "'nude"' is all the calendar men want— if you don't strip, forget it. No matter how gorgeous your face is— nobody gives a damn.

When K.K. saw us in the Canteen, & invited us to his studio to be photographed, it was Betty Short he stared at most, & not Norma Jeane he'd already photographed and had hit a dead-end— he thought. 'Cause she would not pose nude.

It was Betty Short who engaged K.K. in sparky repartee like Carole Lombard on the screen not Norma Jeanne who bit her thumbnail smiling & blushing like a dimwit.

It was Betty Short who said yes maybe. Can't promise but maybe, yes. It was Norma Jeane who just giggled and murmured something nobody could hear.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Black Dahlia & White Rose by Joyce Carol Oates. Copyright © 2012 by Joyce Carol Oates. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2012

    Black Dalia & White Roses is an intriguing collection that n

    Black Dalia & White Roses is an intriguing collection that not only tells stories, but make us ponder them and hold our breaths as we turn every page. Boundaries are made invisible, ideas are tested, stereotypes are rendered meaningless and the wideness of man's soul is revealed. A friend suggested I read this story and The Shades of Fire; and henceforth, I will start taking his choices seriously, especially of short stories.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2012

    Nightwing

    She ran to him. "I thought I lost you."

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2014

    Pokemon professors lab

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Korbin's House

    A house with a nice fireplace, with a table that has a remote control boat inside of it. The remote control is on the loveseat. A sixty inch flatscreen TV, some stuff placed around for decor.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2012

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2012

    Pearlsong

    Can i b ur mate

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    Mdtd

    Fd

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2012

    Echosong

    A pretty, slender, pure white she-cat with brilliant blue eyes pads in. "I'd like to be your mate" she purred "I'm not in a clan though'"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2012

    Icefeaher

    Lkay

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2012

    Time that come to closing

    A slender solid white and mouse brown she padded in, her spring green eyes shining

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2012

    Sunray

    Sunray coughed. "Where is this clan?" She mewed softly. "I would like to start over. My 4 kits are dead. Dead and lost."

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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