Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong

( 3 )

Overview

In Evil Eye, Oates offers four chilling tales about love so powerful that people might die—or kill—for it. In the title story, we meet Mariana, the young fourth wife of a prominent intellectual. When her husband’s first wife comes to visit, Mariana learns a terrible secret that threatens her marriage and sanity. In “So Near Any Times Always,” shy teenager Lizbeth meets Desmond, a charming older boy who offers the first spark of romance. Yet as their relationship blossoms, Lizbeth realizes that a menacing soul ...

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Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong

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Overview

In Evil Eye, Oates offers four chilling tales about love so powerful that people might die—or kill—for it. In the title story, we meet Mariana, the young fourth wife of a prominent intellectual. When her husband’s first wife comes to visit, Mariana learns a terrible secret that threatens her marriage and sanity. In “So Near Any Times Always,” shy teenager Lizbeth meets Desmond, a charming older boy who offers the first spark of romance. Yet as their relationship blossoms, Lizbeth realizes that a menacing soul lies beneath Desmond’s perfect façade. In “The Execution,” spoiled college student Bart Hansen has planned the perfect crime to get back at his condescending parents. What he didn’t plan on was the resilience of his mother’s love, even in the face of death. And in “The Flatbed,” childhood trauma has prevented Cecelia from enjoying physical intimacy with a man. But when she meets the love of her life, Cecelia must confront the demon who stole her innocence long ago. With the razor-sharp prose that has made Joyce Carol Oates a living legend, Evil Eye shows love as sporadically magical, mysterious, and murderous.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A dazzling, disturbing, tour de force of Gothic suspense: four odd, compelling, ingeniously narrated tales that gain in power and resonance when read in conjunction with each other.”—Boston Globe

“These potboilers about murder, obsession and death have a genre funkiness, a greasy pulp seaminess, that is reminiscent of forgotten subscription serials and old “Twilight Zone” installments. . . . For Oates, whose worldview is as flinty as that of any of her male peers, true horror is rooted not in the supernatural—that would be almost reassuring—but in the things that men and women do to each other under the spell of attraction.”—Washington Post

“These four Gothic tales run the gamut from creepy to mesmerizing. . . . All the while, [Oates] slyly critiques our culture, from parents who don’t protect their young daughters from sexual predators to killers hopped up on prescription meds.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Exquisitely suspenseful. . . . The relationships between the damaged, sometimes monstrous individuals who people these pages will keep the reader riveted."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Love doesn’t just go wrong between Oates’ characters, it blows up, drips poison, tortures, kills. . . . This is among her better quick-turn efforts. Each of its novellas makes your skin crawl even as it also seems completely believable, like something you heard once, from where, you can’t remember.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“This is familiar Oates territory, mapped with artistry and care; dark, bloody, and unforgiving.”—Barnes & Noble Review

“An extraordinarily vivid depiction of lives gone awry. . . . A creepy, macabre thrill from start to finish. . . . Terrific stuff.”—Independent (UK)

“Oates at her best—spare, swift, beautifully observed and quietly lethal.”—Times (UK)

“Immediately engaging . . . [the] suspense is palpable.”—Shenandoah

"With her focus on deviant and twisted characters, Oates continues to be a worthy descendant of the gothic tradition of Edgar Allan Poe."—Kirkus Reviews

"A quartet of shrewd and unnerving novellas. . . . Oates has a superbly disconcerting gift for orchestrating slowly coalescing realizations that something is horribly wrong."—Booklist

“A stunningly written, disturbing masterpiece. . . . The four worlds that Oates gives us here pull in the reader until she finds herself too fascinated to leave—even when everything gets creepy.”—Bustle.com

Publishers Weekly
These four exquisitely suspenseful novellas from Oates (The Accursed) offer sharp characterizations, whether it be the naïve and romantic 16-year-old Lizbeth Marsh; the deeply spoiled, deeply disturbed Bart Hansen; or Mariana Mohr, the fourth wife of an accomplished intellectual. The last named is in the title story, which is by far the volume’s strongest. The eye in question is both a beautiful glass nazar—a valuable talisman that’s in Austin Mohr’s art collection—and the missing eye of his diminutive, mesmerizing first wife who comes to visit. In “The Execution,” Bart Hansen’s plan to murder his parents is as inadequate as his father believed all his plans were. “So Near Anytime Always” has a surprise ending to the relationship of Lizbeth Marsh and the unfathomable Desmond Parrish. The relationships between the damaged, sometimes monstrous individuals who people these pages will keep the reader riveted. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates. (Sept.)
Booklist

“Shrewd and unnerving. . . . Oates’ deft tales of vulnerable women with surprisingly deep reservoirs of strength and a capacity for revenge are infused with wry and knowing commentary on the battle between the sexes, the justice system, and the consequences of entitlement.”
Booklist

Library Journal
★ 10/01/2013
In the most recent offering by the preeminent Oates (The Falls) are exquisite portrayals of young, vulnerable people who are preyed upon by one another, who sometimes succumb to the burden of memory and present-day events, and who sometimes achieve victory in working through "love gone wrong." The collection's opening novella, "Evil Eye," depicts Mariana, the fourth wife of a very demanding, wealthy man. When the first wife comes to visit, Mariana hears whispers of what happened to the woman's infant son from that first marriage. Mariana is unable to cope with this news, and her world is completely shattered. In "So Near, Anytime, Always," Lizbeth, an awkward, lonely girl, is initially flattered by handsome Desmond's attentions. When he turns to stalking and otherwise threatening her and when she finds out what happened to his younger sibling, Lizbeth tries to break off the relationship—with dire consequences for Desmond. "The Execution" is a nerve-racking page-turner characterizing young college student Bart, who has been continually bullied by his wealthy father. "The Flatbed," the last tale, deals with childhood sexual abuse and healing still raw memories. VERDICT These powerful, suspenseful novellas can easily keep readers awake at night and perhaps should be read in bright daylight. Highly recommended.—Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH
Kirkus Reviews
Four novellas--and as the subtitle informs us, in each, love has definitely "gone wrong" in perverse and creepy ways. The titular story concerns a nazar, a "talisman to ward off the ‘evil eye.' " Mariana, the narrator, is the fourth wife (almost always italicized, to emphasize her outsider status) of Austin Mohr, prominent director of an arts institute in San Francisco. Twenty-five years younger than her moody and volatile husband, Mariana is timid and conforming--until her domestic equilibrium is disrupted by the visit of Ines Zambranco, the first wife. The second narrative introduces us to Lizbeth, a 16-year-old who shyly develops a relationship with Desmond Parrish, an outgoing, brash and highly intelligent young man who's supposedly taking a gap year before continuing his academic career at Amherst. Over a period of several months, Lizbeth gets increasingly nervous about Desmond's mental stability--a valid suspicion, as she later finds out he had killed his young sister and been incarcerated in a psychiatric ward for seven years. "The Execution" puts us inside the mind of Bart Hansen, a college student seething with a monstrous hatred of his father, so he plans what he hopes will be the perfect crime--killing him with an axe. Although things inevitably go wrong (like his forgetting about the evidence provided by EZ Pay when he makes the journey home to do the murder), an exceptionally clever lawyer gets Bart his freedom since the trial ends with a hung jury. The final novella, "The Flatbed," concerns Cecelia, a woman who's not able to have normal sexual relations because her grandfather abused her when she was young. A man romantically interested in her becomes furious when he learns of this and arranges a meeting to get revenge on the old man. With her focus on deviant and twisted characters, Oates continues to be a worthy descendant of the gothic tradition of Edgar Allan Poe.
The Barnes & Noble Review

"Evil Eye," the first and most elegant of "Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong," by Joyce Carol Oates, is a quaint California horror story narrated by a timid young bride who bears a strong resemblance to the anonymous heroine of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Oates's Mariana, however, has a name at least, if not an identity. "Mariana had married a distinguished man," Oates writes. "?.And now Mariana was Mrs. Austin Mohr; if she wished to be so designated." Like du Maurier's narrator, "?she'd known not to ask about the wife." The first wife that is, Mariana being the fourth. But when the first wife arrives for an overnight visit, even the oddly dulled Mariana is struck by the older woman's wounded, frantic personality — and by the fact that the she has one eye. "She glanced back at the empty socket which had been made up with cosmetics as well, black mascara outlining the socket's edge and an arched eyebrow penciled in above." Could Mariana be hallucinating? There is definitely a dead baby in the background, first child of the first marriage, and real blood flows before the night is out. Oates leaves Mariana staring dreamily at a handful of "?gleaming little pearl-pills?." Barbiturates. To ease her insomnia? Or to dispose of her tyrannical, ponytailed husband?

The dazed, menacing atmosphere that Oates creates in "Evil Eye" also permeates "So Near Anytime Always," a seemingly innocent depiction of teenage infatuation that is, predictably, nothing of the sort. "Of course it didn't occur to you, he might be older than he appeared," the narrator recalls. "?Because you were sixteen?. A not-pretty girl. A lonely girl. A desperate girl." Here love delivers a dead dog, a suicide, and finally, of course, an irreparably damaged young woman.

All of this seems like child's play, however, in comparison to the relentlessly feverish stories that complete this bleak volume. "The Execution," from the outset, imprisons us inside the mind of a killer. "Overhead a shredded-looking sky like old Kleenex. And a faint moon rising. Made him shiver!" Twenty- year-old frat boy Bart Hansen is about to enter his parents' house through the garage, take an axe off the wall, and climb the stairs to their bedroom. "He'd taken three Rits. He'd had just a few beers at the Delt-Sig house. The pizza, with slimy- salty anchovies, was feeling heavy in his gut?." The pungency of such details and the narrative's jittery cadence induce a queasiness that turns to nausea once the killing begins. And when the killing ends, the crime mutates into something even more repellent and overtly Oedipal.

Then comes "The Flatbed," which imprisons us inside the mind of a victim. We meet her as a beautiful young woman in bed with a man who is "?somewhat mysterious to her — not a man she knew well, except intimately." Her body will not admit this lover because it was violated years earlier when "?she was a shy child. Shy, and shrewd." Jagged shards of memory reveal the nature of the crime, and in a shocking twist, the perpetrator is finally punished, but at tremendous cost. This is familiar Oates territory, mapped with artistry and care; dark, bloody, and unforgiving.

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802122889
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 342,569
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of such national bestsellers as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys. She is the recipient of the National Book Award, for them, and the 2010 President’s Medal for the Humanities.

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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

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Beautiful, Well Written...Uncomfortable

    I am new to Joyce Carol Oates...though I have always meant to introduce myself to her writing, I've only done so now.

    What I found in her writing is that yes, these are stories of love but not just the love relationship between a man and woman, but also an exploration between a parent and child, a young girl and a maniac, and a woman and her abuser...some may call the stories dark. They are dark and disturbing but when you examine why they are considered so it is because each of us can actually relate to the existence of this "evilness" in our lives. In these different types of love it is disturbing that one can conjure up one or more situations in which this kind of thing does exist in reality. There is a distinct exhibition of the true and ugly side of love and how perception can mold that story.

    I found it most disturbing that I was looking at pieces and fragments that I could relate to in my life and found that they do exist whether in people close to me or in stories i've heard and this is what makes the four stories haunting. Like a bad accident, they are addictive and you can't stop staring...but you are sad/annoyed/disturbed to remember an accident in your own life that you may remember whether it was something close to you or you just heard in passing...the existing and ability to relate is what is most disturbing about this book.

    Oates is able to delve into the subconscious through these stories and force you to think about things that may have disappeared because of the readers perception. This is a gift and truly the definition of a hauntingly disturbing story. This is writing at it's best...she truly understands human nature. She is able to go somewhere within each person and evoke emotions through simple stories that leave you with questions and dare the reader to think harder.

    This is not my last visit into the world of Oates, no matter how disturbing, there is something beautiful and ridiculously talented here.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2014

    Dont pass up all her books

    All her books are great. Real life in a real way. What literature is meant to be

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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