Faithless: Tales of Transgression

( 9 )

Overview

In this collection of twenty-one unforgettable stories, Joyce Carol Oates explores the mysterious private lives of men and women with vivid, unsparing precision and sympathy. By turns interlocutor and interpreter, magician and realist, she dissects the psyches of ordinary people and their potential for good and evil with chilling understatement and lasting power.

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.36
BN.com price
(Save 16%)$15.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (80) from $1.99   
  • New (15) from $1.99   
  • Used (65) from $1.99   
Faithless: Tales of Transgression

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99
BN.com price

Overview

In this collection of twenty-one unforgettable stories, Joyce Carol Oates explores the mysterious private lives of men and women with vivid, unsparing precision and sympathy. By turns interlocutor and interpreter, magician and realist, she dissects the psyches of ordinary people and their potential for good and evil with chilling understatement and lasting power.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Critically acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates -- whose We Were the Mulvaneys was a 2001 Oprah pick and whose Blonde was nominated for a National Book Award the previous year -- offers with a brilliant collection of short fiction, Faithless: Tales of Transgression. By turns magician, interlocutor, and interpreter, Oates, a master of the modern short story, penetrates the psyches of her formidable characters, weaving 20 precise and vivid tales that are unrelenting in their awareness of our all-too-human capacity for committing acts both good and evil.
Book
[M]ysteries and tales of horror that immediately call to mind the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Publisher's Weekly
"[F]ew if any authors share Oates's phenomenal range, and few know our dark but shimmering secrets so well."
From The Critics

THE MURDERERS, adulterers and suicide victims who inhabit the pages of Joyce Carol Oates' newest collection can be found at prestigious art institutes, in 7-Elevens or awaiting jury duty in a West Virginia county courthouse. Abandoning traditional landscapes for contemporary terrain, Oates writes about brooding souls who follow perverse impulses and live to tell the tales of their trespasses.

Divided into three parts, the book begins with stories of fractured or violent love. The first story, "Au Sable," is a quiet, melancholy account of an infirm, aging man who calls his son-in-law to tell him of the decision he and his wife have made to commit suicide in the family's summer cabin in the Adirondacks. The narrator of "Summer Sweat" recalls "the most destructive love affair of her life," which caused her more misery than elation. "Gunlove" is a series of vignettes narrated by a young woman with an erotic attachment to firearms.

The title story is a haunting masterpiece that questions the reliability of memory and community myths. In this mystery, two grown women, Cornelia and Constance Nissenbaum, recall the disappearance of their mother when they were children. Cornelia's daughter narrates the story, weighing out the two very different accounts given by her aunt and mother. Selected for a Pushcart Prize and included in the 1998 edition of The Best American Mystery Stories, it serves as a turning point in the collection; the stories that follow are all mysteries and tales of horror that immediately call to mind the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

As in Poe's tales, some of Oates' narrators are madmen who confess murderous obsessions in lucid prose. Othersare innocent bystanders who bear witness to horrendous events. Sometimes the author steps in as an omniscient narrator. Like Poe, Oates merges the Gothic conventions with modern social and political concerns, creating stories that feel at once antique and new. But she also shares Poe's love of dark humor and a good hoax. The narrator of "The Vampire" is a tool-and-die designer who reunites with his cousin, an artist, when they are both summoned to jury duty for a murder trial in a small West Virginia courthouse. While they wait in a jury selection room, the artist speaks of his obsession with the wife of his recently deceased friend. Convinced that the wife is a vampire, the artist confesses his plans to gun her down. In "Deathwatch," a jaded New York reporter working the capital punishment beat goes to Birmingham, Alabama, to cover a routine execution in a state prison. Tired of coach-class airplane lunches, bad wine and the numbing repetitiveness of capital punishment trials, he charges an extravagant feast for the condemned man on his credit card because he can't bear the thought of him eating a Big Mac for his last meal.

Perhaps what makes these stories most indebted to Poe is their self-reflexive quality, their willingness to play with the disparity between reality and its artificial rendering in fiction. In "The High School Sweetheart: A Mystery," a psychological suspense mystery writer named R— is elected president of the American Mystery Writers. Suddenly thrilled, but also filled with self-doubt, he thinks, "There was something of horror in the lifelong contemplation of mystery; a sick, visceral helplessness that must be transformed into control, and mastery."

One can't help but suspect that this is Oates contemplating her own prolific career of transforming acts of horror, madness and weird sexuality into masterful works of fiction. In the afterword to her collection Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories, she writes, "Over a period of three decades I seem to have published somewhere beyond 400 short stories—a number as daunting, or more daunting to me, as to any other. The motives have nearly always to do with memorializing people, or a landscape, or an event, or a profound and riddlesome experience that can only be contemplated in the solitude of art." Ultimately, it's not her morbid subject matter that makes this collection compelling but her willingness to imagine the short story in so many different ways. Each story should be read slowly and independently. When read in rapid succession, they glut the reader with the darkest sensation.
—Susan Tekulve

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Oates long ago established herself as the nation's literary Weegee, prowling the mean streets of the American mind and returning with gloriously lurid takes on our midnight obsessions. If she has left a stone in the shared unconscious unturned, she turns it here in this collection of 24 wide-ranging stories. As the subtitle suggests, the book's preoccupation is sin, but otherwise the stories are richly various. They range from quiet, intimate tales--such as the chilling opening effort, "Au Sable," about a man let in on a suicide he cannot prevent--to the satiric fantasia on TV journalism and police brutality that closes the volume, "*In COPLAND*." Indeed, the stories (and there are enough here for two if not three volumes) are loosely grouped into three untitled sections, respectively focused on individual obsession, family and notorious recent crimes. Throughout, sex often seems the innocent engine of our sins. In the title story, which opens the second section, sexual infidelity is offered as a coverup for a much deeper faithlessness, and in "What Then, My Life?" a successful woman asks whether her life would have been as meaningful and successful if the sexual assault that marked her youth had not occurred. But it is the stories of the final section that will probably attract the most attention. These tales echo the headlines--the Menendez brothers, Columbine, Abner Louima--but do so with great imagination and unexpected humor. Some may see the collection's virtue, its great variety, as its vice, judging it a miscellany of sketches and treatments written quickly during off hours. But few if any authors share Oates's phenomenal range, and few know our dark but shimmering secrets so well. (Mar. 3) Forecast: Post-Blonde, Oates is flying high. The stories may be a hard sell, particularly with so many Oates novels on the shelves, but strong reviews and lingering Blonde effervescence could translate into decent sales--and of course this should remain a perennial backlist item. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Hero of the Prix Goncourt-winning The Abyssinian, Jean-Baptiste Poncet has even more adventures this time around. He rescues a friend in the Urals, endures slavery in Afghanistan, and then rushes back to Isfahan to save his wife when the city is besieged. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another (the 21st, already) ho-hum collection demonstrating both Oates's unceasing productivity and her inexplicable willingness to gather embarrassingly shoddy work together with handfuls of stories actually worth preserving. For far too many of these slackly written "Tales of Transgression" revisit themes explored in earlier and better work ("We Were Worried About You" is yet another reworking of Oates's classic "First Views of the Enemy") or use material that seems to have been detached from recent novels like Zombie (1995) and Man Crazy (1997). The generic characters and their victims are familiar figures in the Oates canon, presented here with only slight variations. The "Lover," for instance, stalks the man who abandoned her; in "The Stalker," a victim of sexual violence becomes a neurasthenic paranoid; the protagonist of "Murder-Two," an idealistic defense attorney, surrenders to infatuation with her matricidal teenaged client; and the narrator of "A Manhattan Romance" clings to borderline-incestuous adoration of her suave "Daddy," a corrupt attorney who had used his child as a hostage before killing himself. Oates stretches farther still in "Tusk," which portrays a 13-year-old malcontent plotting a high-school killing spree, and "*In Copland,*" the overheated story of an investigative journalist's surreal experience of police violence. Only in the deftly structured "What Then, My Life?," in which the sources of an elderly woman's seeming "hatred" of her granddaughter are subtly revealed, and in the atmospheric title story, a skillfully extended anecdote about a mother's disappearance, do we glimpse the harshly realistic, spine-tingling writer Oates can be whenshe'sat her best. But if an unknown writer had sent these stories around (17 of them were first published in magazines), the number rejected would have been high indeed. Oates has been publishing short fiction for 40 years. Let's have a Best or Selected Stories, by all means. But, please, no more books like Faithless.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060933579
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 714,322
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (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.

Read More Show Less
    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

AU SABLE

Early evening, August. In the stillness of the suburban house, the telephone rang. Mitchell hesitated only a moment before lifting the receiver. And here was the first wrong note. The caller was Mitchell's father-in-law, Otto Behn.

Not for years had Otto called before the phone rates went down at 11 P.M. Not even when Otto's wife Teresa had been hospitalized.

The second wrong note. The voice. "Mitch? Hello! It's me Otto." Otto's voice was oddly lifted, eager, as if Otto were a farther distance away than usual and worried that Mitchell couldn't hear him. And he sounded affable, even buoyant -- as Otto rarely was these days on the phone. Lizbeth, Otto's daughter, had come to dread his calls in the late evening: as soon as you picked up the phone, Otto would launch into one of his riffs, complaint-tirades, deadpan, funny, but with a cold fury beneath, in the long-ago style of Lenny Bruce, whom Otto had much admired in the late 1950s. Now, in his eighties, Otto had himself become an angry man: angry about his wife's cancer, angry about his own "chronic condition," angry about their Forest Hills neighbors (noisy kids, barking dogs, lawn mowers, leaf blowers), angry about being made to wait two hours "in a refrigerated room" for his most recent MRI, angry about politicians, including even those he'd helped canvass votes for in the first heady flush of his retirement from high school teaching fifteen years ago. It was old age that Otto was angry about, but who could tell the poor man that? Not his daughter, and certainly not his son-in-law.

Tonight, though, Otto wasn't angry.

In a warmly genial, if slightly forced voice he queried Mitchell about Mitchell's work, which was corporate architectural design; and about Lizbeth, who was the Behns' only daughter; and about their grown, beautiful, departed children, Otto's grandchildren he'd adored as kids and this went on for a while until at last Mitchell said uneasily, "Uh, Otto -- Lizbeth is out at the mall. She'll be back around seven. Should I have her call you?"

Otto laughed loudly. You could all but see the saliva glistening on his full, fleshy lips. "Don't want to talk to the old man, eh?"

Mitchell tried to laugh, too. "Otto, we've been talking."

Otto said, more seriously, "Mitch, my friend, I'm glad you picked up. Not Bethie. I can't talk long and I'd prefer, I guess, to talk to you."

"Yes?" Mitchell felt a touch of dread. Never in their thirty years of acquaintance had Otto Behn called him "friend." Teresa must be out of remission again. Dying? Otto himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years before. Not a severe case, yet. Or was it?

Guiltily Mitchell realized that he and Lizbeth hadn't visited the older couple in almost a year, though they lived less than two hundred miles away. Lizbeth was dutiful about telephoning, usually Sunday evenings, hoping (usually futilely) to speak first with her mother, whose telephone manner was weakly cheerful and optimistic; but the last time they'd visited, they'd been shocked by Teresa's deterioration. The poor woman had had months of chemotherapy and was bone-thin, her skin like wax. Not long ago, in her sixties, she'd been exuberant, fleshy, sturdy as an earthenware pot. And there was Otto, hovering about, tremors in both hands that he seemed to be exacerbating out of comic spite, complaining brilliantly about medical workers, HMOs, and UFOs "in conspiracy" -- what a strained, exhausting visit. On the drive home, Lizbeth recited lines from an Emily Dickinson poem -- "'Oh Life, begun in fluent Blood, and consummated dull!'"

"Jesus," Mitchell said, dry-mouthed, shivering. "That's it, isn't it?"

Now, ten months later, there was Otto on the phone speaking matter-of-factly, as you'd discuss selling some property, of a "certain decision" he and Teresa had come to. Teresa's "white-cell blood count," his own "shitty news" -- which he wasn't going to discuss. The books were closed permanently on that subject, he said. Mitchell, trying to make sense of this, leaned against a wall, suddenly weak. This is happening too fast. What the hell is this? Otto was saying, in a lowered voice, "We decided not to tell you and Lizbeth, her mother was back in Mount Sinai in July. They sent her home. We've made our decision. This isn't to discuss, Mitch, y'understand? It's to inform. And to ask you to honor our wishes."

"Wishes -- ?"

"We've been looking through albums, old photos and things, and having a ball of a time. Things I haven't seen in forty years. Teresa keeps saying, 'Wow! We did all this? We lived all that?' It's a weird, humbling thing, sort of, to realize we'd been goddamned happy, even when we didn't know it. I didn't have a clue, I've got to confess. So many years, looking back, sixty-two years Teresa and I've been together, you'd think it would be depressing as hell but actually, in the right mood, it isn't. Teresa says, 'We've already had about three lives, haven't we?' "

"Excuse me," Mitchell said, through a roaring of blood in his ears, "--what is this 'decision' you've made?"

Otto said, "Right. I'm asking you to honor our wishes in this respect, Mitch. I think you understand."

"I -- what?"

"I wasn't sure whether I should speak with Lizbeth. How she'd react. You know, when your kids first left home for college." Otto paused. Tactful. Ever the gentleman. Never would he speak critically about Lizbeth to Mitchell, though with Lizbeth he could be blunt and wounding, or had been in the past. He said now, hesitantly, "She can be, well -- emotional."

On a hunch Mitchell asked where Otto was.

"Where?"

"Are you in Forest Hills?"

Otto paused. "No, we're not."

"Where are you, then?"

Otto said, an edge of defiance in his voice, "At the cabin."

"The cabin? Au Sable?"

"Right. Au Sable."

Otto let that point sink in.

They pronounced the name differently. Mitchell, 0 Sable, three syllables; Otto, Oz'ble, one elided syllable, as locals pronounced it.

Au Sable meant the Behns' property in the Adirondacks. Hundreds of miles away. A seven-hour drive, and the final arduous hour along narrow, twisting, mostly unpaved mountain roads north of Au Sable Forks. So far as Mitchell knew, the Behns hadn't spent time there in years. If he'd given thought to it -- and he had not, for subjects pertaining to Lizbeth's parents were left to Lizbeth to ponder -- Mitchell would have advised the Behns to sell the property, hardly a cabin but a six-bedroom lodge of hand-hewn logs, not winterized, on twelve acres of beautiful, desolate countryside south of Mount Moriah. Mitchell would not have wished Lizbeth to inherit this property. For they wouldn't feel comfortable selling it, something that had meant so much at one time to Teresa and Otto; yet Au Sable was too remote for them, impractical. They were people who quickly became restless away from what they called civilization: pavement, newspapers, wine shops, decent tennis courts, friends, and at least the possibility of good restaurants. In Au Sable, you drove an hour to get to -- what? Au Sable Forks. Years ago, of course, when the kids were young, they'd gone each summer to visit Lizbeth's parents, and, yes, it was a fact: the Adirondacks were beautiful and waking early in the morning you saw Mount Moriah startlingly close like a mammoth dream and the air achingly fresh and pure piercing your lungs and even the cries of birds sharper and more defined than you were accustomed to and there was the conviction, unless it was the wish, that such physical revelations signaled a spiritual condition -- but, still, Lizbeth and Mitchell were equally restless to leave, after a few days of this. They'd take to afternoon naps in their second-story screened-in room surrounded by pines like a vessel afloat on a green-tinctured sea. Tender lovemaking and dreamy, drifting conversations of a kind they never had anywhere else. Still, after a few clays they were eager to leave.

Mitchell swallowed hard. He wasn't used to questioning his father-in-law and felt like one of Otto Behn's high school students, intimidated by the man he admired. "Otto, wait -- why are you and Teresa in Au Sable?"

Otto said carefully, "We are planning to remedy our situation. We have made our decision, and this is to -- " Otto paused, tactfully. "This is to inform you."

Mitchell felt, for all that Otto was speaking so reasonably, as if the man had kicked him in the stomach. What was this? What was he hearing? This call isn't for me. This is a mistake. Otto was saying that they'd been planning this for three years, minimum. Since his own diagnosis. They'd been "stockpiling" what was required. Good potent reliable barbiturates. Nothing in haste, and nothing left to chance, and nothing to regret. "You know," Otto said expansively, " -- I'm a man who plans ahead."

This was true. You had to concede the point.

Mitchell wondered: how much had Otto accumulated? Investments in the 1980s, some rental properties on Long Island. Mitchell felt a sinking, sickening sensation. They will leave most of it to us. Who else? He could see Teresa smiling as she'd smiled planning her lavish Christmas dinners, her monumental Thanksgivings, the presentation of gifts to grandchildren, gorgeously wrapped. Otto was saying, "You promise me, Mitchell. I need to trust you," and Mitchell said, "Look, Otto," stalling, dazed, " -- do we have your number there?" and Otto said, "Answer me, please," and Mitchell heard himself saying, not knowing what he was saying, "Of course you can trust me, Otto! But is your phone connected?" and Otto said, annoyed, "No. We've never needed a phone in the cabin," and Mitchell said, for this had been an old vexation between them, from years ago, "Certainly you need a phone in that cabin, that's exactly the place you do need a phone," and Otto muttered something inaudible, the verbal equivalent of a shrug, and Mitchell thought, He's calling from a pay phone in Au Sable Forks, he's about to hang up. Quickly Mitchell said, "Hey, look: we'll drive up and see you two. Is Teresa -- all right?" Otto said, reflexively, "Teresa's fine. She's good. And we don't want company." Then, "She's resting, she's out on the sleeping porch, and she's all right. Au Sable was her idea, she always loved it." Mitchell said, groping, "But -- you're so remote." Otto said, "That is the idea, Mitchell." He's going to hang up. He can't hang up. Mitchell was trying to stall, asking how long they'd been there, and Otto said, "Since Sunday. We took two days, we did fine. I can still drive." Otto laughed; it was his old anger stirring, his rage. A few years ago he'd nearly lost his driver's license and somehow through a doctor-friend's intervention he'd managed to hang onto it, and that had not been a good thing, that could have been a fatal error, but you can't tell Otto Behn that, you can't tell an elderly man he will have to surrender his car, his freedom, you just can't. Mitchell was saying they'd drive up to visit, they'd leave at dawn next morning, and Otto was curt in rejecting the idea, saying, "We've made our decision, it's not to discuss. I'm glad I talked with you. I can see how this would be going, with Lizbeth. You prepare her however you think's best, OK?" and Mitch said, "OK, but Otto -- don't do anything," he was breathing fast, confused and not knowing what he said, in a sweat, a sensation like something cold and molten pouring over him, "-- too quickly. Will you call back? Or leave a number? Lizbeth win be home in half an hour," and Otto said, "Teresa feels she would rather write to Lizbeth, and you. That's her way. She doesn't like the phone any more," and Mitch said, "But at least talk to Lizbeth, Otto, I mean you can say anything, y'know, any subject," and Otto said, "I've asked you to honor our wishes, Mitchell. You gave your word," and Mitchell thought, I did? When? What word did I give? What is this? Otto was saying, "We left everything in order, at the house. On my desk. Will, insurance policies, investment files, bankbooks, keys. Teresa had to nag me to update our wills. But I did, and I'm damned glad. Until you make out a final will, you just aren't facing facts. You're in a dreamworld. After eighty, you are in a dreamworld and you have to take control of the way the dream's going." Mitchell was listening, but he'd missed the beat. His thoughts crowded and flashed in his head like playing cards wildly dealt. "Otto, right! Yes -- but maybe we should talk more about this? You can offer valuable advice! Why don't you wait awhile and -- we'll drive up to see you, we'll leave at dawn tomorrow, or actually we could leave tonight-" and Otto interrupted, you'd have said rudely if you didn't know the man, "Hey, good night! This call is costing me a fortune. You kids, we love you."

Otto hung up the phone.

When Lizbeth came home, there was a wrong, slightly jarring note: Mitchell on the back terrace, in the dusk; alone, just sitting there, with a glass of something. "Honey? What's wrong?"

"Just waiting for you."

Never did Mitchell sit like this, wait like this, always his mind was engaged, this was something wrong but Lizbeth came to him and kissed his cheek, lightly. A smell of wine. Heated skin, damp hair. What you'd call a clammy sweat. His T-shirt soaked through. Teasing, Lizbeth said, indicating the glass in Mitchell's hand, "You've started without me. Isn't this early?" Strange, too, that Mitchell would have opened this particular bottle of wine: a gift from friends, in fact it might have been from Lizbeth's parents, years ago when Mitchell had been more serious about wine and hadn't had to cut back on his drinking. Lizbeth asked, hesitantly, "Any calls?"

"No."

"Nothing?"

"Not a thing."

Mitchell felt Lizbeth's relief, knowing how she anticipated calls from Forest Hills. Though of course her dad wouldn't usually call until 11 P.M. when the rates went down.

Mitchell said, "It's been quiet all day, in fact. Everyone seems to be away except us."

Their split-level stucco-and-glass house, which Mitchell had designed, was surrounded by leafy birch trees, evergreens, and oaks. It was a created and not a discovered house; they'd shaped it to their will. They'd lived here for twenty-seven years. In the course of their long marriage, Mitchell had once or twice been unfaithful to Lizbeth, and Lizbeth may have been unfaithful to him, in her intense emotions if not sexually, but time had passed, and time continued to pass, like random items in a drawer casually tumbled together their days, weeks, months, and years in the entrancement of adult life; and this was a peaceful confusion, like a succession of vivid and startling dreams which, after you've awakened, you will be unable to recall except as emotions. The dreams were good, but it's good to be awake.

Lizbeth sat on the white wrought iron bench beside Mitchell. They'd had this heavy thing, now weatherworn and chipped after its most recent repainting, forever. "Everyone is away, I think. It's like Au Sable here."

"Au Sable?" Mitchell looked at her, quickly.

"You know. Mom's and Dad's old place."

"Do they still own it?"

"I guess so. I don't know." Lizbeth laughed, and leaned against him. "I'd be fearful of asking."

She took Mitchell's glass from his fingers and sipped from it. "Alone here. Us alone. I'll drink to that." To Mitchell's surprise, she kissed him on the lips. The first she'd kissed him, like that, girlish and bold, full on the lips, in a long time.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

Joyce Carol Oates, Well-Organized Woman
From the May-June 2001 issue of Book magazine.

Although Joyce Carol Oates enjoys the occasional pay-per-view boxing match, the sixty-two-year-old author doesn't watch a lot of TV. In fact, before it was announced that Oates's 1996 novel We Were the Mulvaneys was the first of Oprah's Book Club™ picks of 2001, she had never even seen the program. With her schedule, there's not much time for channel surfing. Oates spends her days, and often nights, composing novels, poetry, nonfiction and short-story collections -- she has about seventy books to her name. She also writes plays, essays, and book reviews, edits anthologies and Ontario Review, which she and her husband founded in 1974, and teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

We Were the Mulvaneys has sold hundreds of thousands of copies since its golden seal of approval. This is the first time Oates has reached Number One on the New York Times bestseller list, even though she's been churning out books at an extraordinary pace since winning the National Book Award for her novel them in 1970. But if her work has not sailed to the top of the charts, most of it has been critically acclaimed.

"She's a phenomenon," says poet Daniel Halpern, her editor at Ecco Press. "It makes a lot of people nervous, especially other writers, that she produces so much. But what should make them nervous is not the quantity but the quality of the work that comes out. She amazes me, that book after book is of such a high level."

How could anyone be this productive, particularly considering that she writes everything, novels included, in longhand first before transferring words to type? Oates says she doesn't feel that she is -- she's just well organized.

"My days begin early, and end late," says Oates, who lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband, Raymond Smith, and two cats. She says she is always thinking of her work, no matter what she's doing. In particular, the story ideas really flow while running, walking, and bicycling. "At such times the imagination floats free, and one can contemplate one's work with an almost magical detachment."

Magically detached or not, Oates still manages to have a rich social life. She attends countless campus events, like dance and theater, travels, and seeks out ethnic restaurants. "She's very sociable," says her close friend, feminist scholar and Princeton professor Elaine Showalter, who marvels at her friend's ability to squeeze in the time to entertain. "She throws several large parties a year and smaller dinner parties, and she goes out to a lot of parties," adds Greg Johnson, author of 1998's Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. "I think it's just that she's a very scheduled and disciplined person whose life is very orderly in the way that most of our lives are not."

While Showalter says that her friend has a wicked sense of humor, Oates exudes a consummate professional's calm, cool demeanor. When she picked up the phone last January and found Oprah Winfrey on the other end, Oates recalls, she wasn't ruffled. "I'm not that emotional," Oates says in her book-filled Princeton office, a movie poster of 1996's Foxfire looming above her head (one of the only movies made from her books). Only the slightest smile betrays her detachment.

Looking at Oates's oeuvre, it's surprising that Winfrey didn't call earlier. In many of her books, Oates has examined how violence can decimate domesticity, particularly in women's lives, a subject Winfrey has been keen on in her selections. From Oates's classic 1966 short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" to 2001's Faithless: Tales of Transgression, she has exposed with sickening realism the danger that can erupt in everyday situations. In 1996's We Were the Mulvaneys, for example, an idyllic family in upstate New York (where Oates grew up) falls apart after their only daughter and sister is raped after a school dance. "I am a chronicler of the American experience," Oates says. "We have been historically a nation prone to violence, and it would be unreal to ignore this fact. What intrigues me is the response to violence: its aftermath in the private lives of women and children in particular."

While Oates may rival other famously prolific authors like Tom Clancy and Danielle Steel in productivity, her narratives are constantly evolving and refuse to gel to any mold. Her characters range anywhere from young schoolgirls and housewives to boxers and rapists to kittens. "She reinvents herself three or four times a year as a writer," Halpern says. "She was a born writer, so she's always had a sense of merit in how to tell a story and draw characters that were different from each other and came alive on the page." He says that the novel Blonde, Oates's 737-page ode to Marilyn Monroe that was a 2000 National Book Award finalist, proves her mastery as a storyteller and reveals her growth as a writer. "The structure of Blonde I don't think she could've written twenty years ago," he says.

The next novel, Middle Age: A Romance, due out in October, takes yet another spin through American existence, but may reflect a kinder, gentler Oates. She suggests that these days she's more idealistic and romantic about writing, and perhaps even about life, than she was decades ago. "Why this is," she says, "I don't know."

She does know that the new novel will be a humorous and loving examination of the lasting friendships of a group of middle-aged men and women. "It's a much more upbeat and positive sort of narrative than people identify with her," Halpern says. "Nothing terrible happens to any of the characters." Well, except for the primary character's drowning at the beginning of the book, he admits, and another character's fatal mauling by his wife's dogs. "Otherwise, it's a happy ending." (Kristin Kloberdanz)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2014

    I am AWESOME so please read

    I love have sex with my dad fp

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    Recommended-Draws you in!

    Great Stories that examine the deep inner voice of all of us. Very well written!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 22, 2013

    Simply wonderful, soul searching stories.

    First I normally do not read short stories, but I did not want this book to end!
    All of the characters were being challenged in some way -- and all were easy to relate to and believable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 9 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)