High Crime Area: Tales of Darkness and Dread

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Overview

In the title story, a white aspiring professor is convinced she is being followed. No need to panic—she has a handgun stowed away in her purse, just in case. But when she turns to confront her black male shadow, the situation isn’t what she expects. In “The Rescuer,” a promising graduate student detours to inner-city Trenton, New Jersey, to save her brother from a downward spiral. But she soon finds out there may be more to his world than to hers. And in “The Last Man of Letters,” the world-renowned author X ...

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High Crime Area: Tales of Darkness and Dread

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Overview

In the title story, a white aspiring professor is convinced she is being followed. No need to panic—she has a handgun stowed away in her purse, just in case. But when she turns to confront her black male shadow, the situation isn’t what she expects. In “The Rescuer,” a promising graduate student detours to inner-city Trenton, New Jersey, to save her brother from a downward spiral. But she soon finds out there may be more to his world than to hers. And in “The Last Man of Letters,” the world-renowned author X embarks on a final grand tour of Europe. He has money, fame, but not a whole lot of manners. A little thing like etiquette couldn’t bring a man like X down, could it? In these biting and beautiful pieces, Oates confronts, one by one, the demons within us, demonstrating that sometimes, it’s not the human side that wins out.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
07/28/2014
Each of the six performers chosen to narrate Oates’s collection of dark character studies suits the atmosphere of malaise and despair that emerges from the author’s odd, elegant prose. Ray Chase starts the collection by portraying an orderly at a facility for the elderly in “The Home at Craigmillnar,” with a dispassionate voice as the character describes the discovery of the body of an aged, unloved nun. Chris Patton provides a tense, anxious history of the child in “Demon,” who has suffered most of his young life, while Tamara Marston employs a plaintive yearning in “Lorelei,” in which the title character searches for a touch of humanity in the subways of New York. Donna Pastel uses a dry and mildly distracted approach for “High,” in which a middle-aged widow tries to cope with the loss of her husband, first with marijuana, then by courting danger. Whelan shifts from determined to dreamy in “The Rescuer,” as the promising grad student who travels to Trenton, N.J., to save her brother from a druggy vortex, only to find herself slipping in. Finally, reader Luci Christian finds the perfect hardboiled teenager voice for the 13-year-old narrator of “Toad-Baby,” a grim, not-quite-nuclear family tale that, surprisingly for Oates, ends with more than a hint of hope. A Mysterious hardcover. (May)
The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Some people read poetry at bedtime. Others prefer seed catalogs. May I suggest instead Joyce Carol Oates's new story collection, High Crime Area? These "tales of darkness and dread" won't put you to sleep, but they'll give you more interesting nightmares.
Publishers Weekly
01/13/2014
Oates (Evil Eye) offers unexpected glimmers of redemption amid the grotesquerie, degradation, and exploitation that fill this collection’s eight tales. The volume picks up momentum after the predictable and slow-paced opener, “The Home at Craigmillnar,” as Oates delves into denser, more complex realms in the subsequent entries. Several stories—notably, “High” and the novella-length “The Rescuer”—deal with privileged white women who (perhaps) naively force themselves from their sheltered academic world into situations fraught with economic, racial, sexual, and social tensions. Monstrosity, apathy, and despair plague family relationships in “The Rescuer,” “Demon,” and “Toad-Baby.” Many of the characters’ most intimate connections are with strangers, or with the potential those strangers have to indelibly alter the narrators’ lives for better or worse. Oates is at her best depicting characters who seem perplexed by their own needs, desires, and obligations, and readers seeking tidy resolutions and clear endings won’t find them in these tales. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins and Assoc. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“These ‘tales of darkness and dread’ won’t put you to sleep, but they’ll give you more interesting nightmares. . . . In a way, every story is a character study . . . sure to focus a basilisk eye on the weak spot that reveals our own ugly impulses and make us defenseless against the terrors of the night.”—New York Times Book Review

“[In High Crime Area], there’s little overt violence; it’s all in the mind, as [Oates] slowly tightens the noose. Drenched in clammy atmosphere, Oates’ work explores the heads of both ordinary people and those who are at least a little damaged.”—Seattle Times

“Scary, brooding and entertaining. . . . The despair is palpable and the tension always high in these stories told in a combination of hyper-realism and emotionally charged suspense. Horrific and creepy, High Crime Area still manages to smartly critique American society and its uneasy feelings on race, sexuality, gender, academia and family dynamics.”—Bookreporter

“Oates carries forward the great American dark-tales tradition with spellbinding craft, a cutting female eye, and a keen sense of how the diabolical infiltrates everyday existence. . . . Powerhouse Oates brings both exterior and interior worlds into excruciatingly sharp focus, evoking dread, grim exaltation, and the paralysis of prey. Oates’ potent dark tales are addictive.”—Booklist

“Oates’ mastery of imagery and of stream of consciousness enhances the gritty settings and the frailties of her grotesque and pitiable subjects."—Kirkus Reviews

“Exquisitely written . . . there is no better stylist alive than Joyce Carol Oates. . . . Read High Crime Area and prepare yourself for eight surprises, the number of stories in the book.”—Huntington News

“Oates offers unexpected glimmers of redemption amid the grotesquerie, degradation, and exploitation that fill this collection’s eight tales. . . . Oates is at her best depicting characters who seem perplexed by their own needs, desires, and obligations.”—Publishers Weekly

“These stories take the reader to desolate intersections and grimy tenements that mirror the dark reaches of the human soul; the combined elements of literary fiction with genre fiction and true crime offer added audience appeal.”—Library Journal

Library Journal
02/15/2014
Among the most compelling of Oates's many literary personae is the one with a deep-rooted interest in the pathology of criminals and their crimes. Her latest story collection opens with a Roger Ackroyd-like confession that elicits the reader's sympathy before the crime itself is described ("The Home at Craigmillnar"). The other stories range from horror to dark comedy, including a revenge fantasy perpetrated on a misogynistic world-renowned writer ("The Last Man of Letters"). Oates is particularly adept at revealing the lure of the criminal element among failed or failing academics who drift well beyond the statute of limitations of their doctoral degrees. VERDICT These stories take the reader to desolate intersections and grimy tenements that mirror the dark reaches of the human soul; the combined elements of literary fiction with genre fiction and true crime offer added audience appeal. [See Prepub Alert, 10/20/13.]—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-04
From Oates (Carthage, 2014, etc.) comes this collection of eight stories, seven previously published, that explore the depths of human despair and cruelty. A retired nun is found dead with a muslin veil over her face in "The Home at Craigmillnar." Although the nun was a cardiac patient, the orderly who reports her death knows enough about her dark past to suggest that she might have died from something other than natural causes. In "High," a lonely widow seeks escape from her grief even as she opens herself up to exploitation by those she once tried to help. A 13-year-old girl has to protect her half brother from an indifferent world and their alcoholic mother in "Toad-Baby." "Lorelei" is a needy woman who searches the subways for love and hopes that people will notice her. In "Demon," a mentally challenged youth goes to extremes to eliminate the sign of the devil in his own body. The would-be heroine of "The Rescuer" is a cultural anthropologist who leaves her ivory tower to save her brother from a terrifying local culture and is slowly pulled into it. "The Last Man of Letters" is an arrogant author who thinks he's receiving the adulation he deserves until he realizes how much he's hated. Finally, an idealistic young teacher in 1967 Detroit has to face the fears that are personified by the man following her in "High Crime Area." Oates is at her best here when she's writing about floundering academics thrust into situations for which they're hopelessly ill-prepared. Oates' mastery of imagery and stream of consciousness enhances the gritty settings and the frailties of her grotesque and pitiable subjects.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781622314645
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/14/2014
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged; 7 hours
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 5.88 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, JOYCE CAROL OATES is the author of a number of works of award-winning gothic fiction. In 1994, Oates received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

A former child actor, Julia Whelan has appeared in numerous films and television shows, perhaps most notably in ABC’s critically acclaimed series Once And Again. After majoring in English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College and Oxford University, Julia returned to on-camera acting while simultaneously branching out into voiceover. She has now recorded over 100 audiobook titles, garnered multiple Earphones Awards, been repeatedly named one of Audiofile Magazine’s Best Voices, and won an Audie.

Voice actor, writer, and musician RAY CHASE has provides the voices for major commercial campaigns such as Coke Zero, and Top Ten iPhone app successes. He began his career by reading aloud in the car for his mother and sister on the way to school. They didn’t seem to mind so much. He hopes you don’t either.

DONNA POSTEL should have known the path she’d take by her first grade play. Instead of getting to play a duck or a tree, she was cast in the only speaking role, The Narrator. Fast forward to the present and we find Donna in her state-of-the-art studio where she has been happily talking to herself ever since. Her voice has been heard on hundreds of commercials and corporate narrations, recently expanding into audiobooks. When she’s not in the studio, Donna can be found down at the barn, cleaning up after, and occasionally riding, her horses.

LUCI CHRISTIAN is an American voice actress and ADR Script Writer who has provided voices for a number of English language versions of Japanese anime films.

TAMARA MARSTON has been an actor, singer and director for over 30 years. A career performer / musician, Tami has toured nationally with several groups and appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show and A&E’s Goodtime Café. Dividing her time between acting and singing gigs, choral conducting, music and stage directing, jingle and voiceover work, private and public teaching—and family—Tami feels very fortunate to make her living working in the arts.

CHRIS PATTON began his career in stage performance but later found his true calling in voice over. In addition to his work narrating audiobooks, Chris has also voiced over 160 animated titles, and numerous national and regional commercials. He has appeared at over seventy-five pop culture conventions internationally to discuss his craft and interact with fans of his expansive fan base.

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

Table of Contents

Contents:

  • “The Home at Craigmillnar” read by Ray Chase
  • “High” read by Donna Postel
  • “Toad-Baby” read by Luci Christian
  • “Demon” read by Chris Patton
  • “Lorelei” read by Tamara Marston
  • “The Rescuer” read by Julia Whelan
  • “The Last Man of Letters” ready by Ray Chase
  • “High Crime Area” read by Julia Whelan
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    High Crime Area - The Furthest Thing From Dark and Dreadful! Fo

    High Crime Area - The Furthest Thing From Dark and Dreadful!

    For a more in depth review, please visit my blog, Chorley Chronicals!! 




    The first book I ever read/listened to of Joyce Carol Oates was Daddy Love, and I absolutely loved all of the sick and twisted parts of that book. So, when it came time to listen to High Crime Area, I was pretty excited!




    The first short story started out in true Joyce Carol Oates fashion! I was just listening along, and BAM...the unthinkable happened! So I thought that this was going to be a great set of short stories! However, it seems that as each story progressed, the worse they got and harder they were to follow. I can't say that there were any stories after the first one, that even began to peak my interest, let alone make a memorable impression! I didn't find any of the stories to really be dark and dreary, as the titles depicted. All of the titles were different lengths, with the feature title feeling long and drawn out, for no reason at all. But it was also the farther thing from scary or dreadful! So, needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with these short stories!




    Each story was narrated by a different narrator, and I thought that was great, so you could easily distinguish between the stories! I can't say that one narrator was better than the other, however, had they had a better collection to work with, I may have gotten a better impression!




    Overall, High Crime Area seemed lengthy and unmemorable; a major miss for me! I think when you have a collection of several short stories, you are going to have stories that you like and stories that you don't, but the stories that I didn't like far outweighed the one story that peaked my interest! However, this flop absolutely will not stop me from giving another Joyce Carol Oates book a try, because Daddy Love was an absolute hit for me, so I can't wait to experience that all over again!The first book I ever read/listened to of Joyce Carol Oates was Daddy Love, and I absolutely loved all of the sick and twisted parts of that book. So, when it came time to listen to High Crime Area, I was pretty excited!




    The first short story started out in true Joyce Carol Oates fashion! I was just listening along, and BAM...the unthinkable happened! So I thought that this was going to be a great set of short stories! However, it seems that as each story progressed, the worse they got and harder they were to follow. I can't say that there were any stories after the first one, that even began to peak my interest, let alone make a memorable impression! I didn't find any of the stories to really be dark and dreary, as the titles depicted. All of the titles were different lengths, with the feature title feeling long and drawn out, for no reason at all. But it was also the farther thing from scary or dreadful! So, needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with these short stories!




    Each story was narrated by a different narrator, and I thought that was great, so you could easily distinguish between the stories! I can't say that one narrator was better than the other, however, had they had a better collection to work with, I may have gotten a better impression!




    Overall, High Crime Area seemed lengthy and unmemorable; a major miss for me! I think when you have a collection of several short stories, you are going to have stories that you like and stories that you don't, but the stories that I didn't like far outweighed the one story that peaked my interest! However, this flop absolutely will not stop me from giving another Joyce Carol Oates book a try, because Daddy Love was an absolute hit for me, so I can't wait to experience that all over again!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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