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I Am No One You Know [NOOK Book]

Overview

I Am No One You Know contains nineteen startling stories that bear witness to the remarkably varied lives of Americans of our time. In "Fire," a troubled young wife discovers a rare, radiant happiness in an adulterous relationship. In "Curly Red," a girl makes a decision to reveal a family secret, and changes her life irrevocably. In "The Girl with the Blackened Eye," selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2001, a girl pushed to an even greater extreme of courage and desperation manages to survive her ...

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I Am No One You Know

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Overview

I Am No One You Know contains nineteen startling stories that bear witness to the remarkably varied lives of Americans of our time. In "Fire," a troubled young wife discovers a rare, radiant happiness in an adulterous relationship. In "Curly Red," a girl makes a decision to reveal a family secret, and changes her life irrevocably. In "The Girl with the Blackened Eye," selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2001, a girl pushed to an even greater extreme of courage and desperation manages to survive her abduction by a serial killer. And in "Three Girls," two adventuresome NYU undergraduates seal their secret love by following, and protecting, Marilyn Monroe in disguise at Strand Used Books on a snowy evening in 1956.

These vividly rendered portraits of women, men, and children testify to Oates's compassion for the mysterious and luminous resources of the human spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
It is as if these pieces, by being smaller, are even sharper -- as a small television's picture can seem unnaturally crisp. — John Schwartz
Publishers Weekly
Never one to shy away from grim or sensational themes, Oates writes about murder, rape, arson and terrorism in her latest collection of short fiction. In these 19 stories, she evokes the underbellies of small towns and the bizarre and obsessive desires of their inhabitants. In "Upholstery," a teenager finds herself helplessly attracted to a lecherous older man. A 14-year-old in "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" is brutally abducted but afraid to break her kidnapper's trust by escaping. In Oates's precise psychological renderings, victims are as complex as villains and almost always more interesting. The lure of the criminal is seductive, impossible to resist. Two stories, "In Hiding" and "The Instructor," feature middle-class female intellectuals inexplicably drawn to convicts. The prototypical victim, Marilyn Monroe-also the subject of Oates's acclaimed 2001 novel Blonde-appears in disguise in "Three Girls," when two young coeds encounter her in the Strand bookstore and agree to help her remain anonymous. The collection closes with a story about September 11 that in anyone but Oates's hands would fall flat. But "The Mutants," in which a young woman trapped in her downtown apartment building refuses to be paralyzed by fear, is beautifully, uncannily affecting. "She was hollow-eyed and gaunt yet wakeful, no longer the dreamy-eyed blond. A mutant being, primed to survive." Indeed, even the strangest events in this sure-footed collection are painfully familiar. (Apr. 16) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Like an ominous storm cloud forming on the horizon, these 19 stories (all previously published in slightly different form) build on a sense of foreboding. In Part 1, the storm hits hard, with each story considering the issue of unnatural death in a different, but equally troubling, way. The storm seems to pass without striking Part 2, however, as here the issues surrounding murder, accidents, and criminality are resolved. The four stories in Part 3 pull us away to a different sort of storm, that of relationships in their many forms, such as the love affair between a teacher and a student found in "Mrs. Halifax and Rickie Swann: A Ballad." The last two stories switch gears completely, exploring the meeting of two students with Marilyn Monroe and a woman's isolation during the September 11 attacks. In all these stories, Oates demonstrates her continued ability to create edgy stories that are still grounded in reality. She immerses the reader in disturbing dilemmas and then resolves them in unexpected ways. Not for the faint of heart but recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
More of the same, from the most frustratingly uneven writer in the business. In other words, the usual disjointed gathering of carefully composed and inexplicably slipshod work: 19 stories, of varying length and intensity, most of which present overfamiliar Oates character types: people who experience violence or menace or are haunted and traumatized by memories of it. Examples include: "The Girl with the Blackened Eye," recalling how she survived abduction and rape by a serial killer; a 60-ish "forensic specialist" fascinated by the body he partially "reconstructs" from a murder victim's battered remains ("The Skull: A Love Story"); and the unhappily married woman teacher who unwisely seduces an unstable teenaged misfit boy ("Mrs. Halifax and Rickie Swann: A Ballad"). Many involve families variously misshapen: a suburban husband who deals recklessly with the constant importunings of his underachieving, possibly suicidal brother-in-law ("Aiding and Abetting"); a woman who reluctantly accompanies her long "lost" brother to the house where their father had murdered their mother ("The Deaths: An Elegy"); and the bright, despairing adolescent boy who stoically "protects" his promiscuous, drug-addled mother ("Me & Wolfie, 1979"). There's nothing new here-or even in such nominally unfamiliar tales as that of "two NYU girl-poets" who encounter Marilyn Monroe in a bookstore ("Three Girls"), or an account of the 9/11 catastrophe as experienced by a woman seemingly blessed with a perfect life ("The Mutants"). Three stories strike deeper: "Curly Red," the wrenching monologue of "a daughter denounced by her family for ratting to police on two brothers" (who had committed murder); a middle-agedwoman's complex memory of the predatory neighbor who had almost raped her, years earlier ("Upholstery"); and the splendidly ironic "Happiness," about a presumable parricide and its contrasting effects on the lives of two sisters. Vintage Oates-and very much an acquired taste. Agent: John Hawkins/John Hawkins Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061745751
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 503,305
  • File size: 498 KB

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

I Am No One You Know

Stories
By Oates, Joyce Carol

Ecco

ISBN: 0060592885

Chapter One

Curly Red

I was Daddy's favorite of his seven kids, but still he sent me into exile when I was thirteen and refused to speak to me for twenty-seven years, nor would he allow me to return to our house on Crescent Avenue, Perrysburg, New York, even when Grandma died (though he couldn't keep me away from the funeral mass at St. Stephen's and afterward the burial in the church cemetery, where I stood at a distance, crying) when I was twenty-two. Only in the final months of his life, when Daddy was weakened with emphysema and the anger leaked from him, was I allowed to return to help Mom sometimes. Because now Mom needed me. But it was never the same between us.

Daddy was only seventy-three when he died, but he looked much older, ravaged. Always he'd driven himself hard, working (plumber, pipe fitter), drinking heavily, smoking, raging. He'd been involved all his working life with union politics. Feuds with employers, and with other union members and organizers. Every election, Daddy was in a fever for weeks. One of those men involved behind the scenes. "Delivering the Perrysburg labor vote." A hard-muscled man with a roostery air of self-esteem, yet edgy, suspicious. Daddy was a local character, a known person. He'd been an amateur boxer, light heavyweight, in the U.S. Army (1950–52), and worked out at a downtown gym, had a punching bag and a heavy bag in the garage, sparred with my brothers, who could never, swift on their feet as they were, stay out of reach of his "dynamite" right cross. When I was living with relatives across town, in what I call my exile, I knew my father at a distance: caught glimpses of him on the street, saw his picture in the paper. Then things changed, younger men were coming up in the union, Daddy and his friends lost power, Daddy got sick, and one sickness led to another. By the time I was allowed back in the house on Crescent Avenue, Daddy was under hospice care, and he'd turned into an old man, shrunken by fifty pounds, furrows in his face like you'd make in a piecrust with a fork. I stared and stared. Was this my father? That face I knew to be ruddy-skinned, good-looking, now gaunt and strangely collapsed about the mouth. Even his shrewd eyes were smaller and shifting worriedly in their sockets as if he was thinking, Is it in the room with me yet?

John Dellamora, who'd always been contemptuous of weakness in others and in himself, now dependent upon breathing oxygen through a nose piece. Watching me sidelong as I approached his bed bearing a bouquet of white carnations in my trembling hand.

"Daddy? It's Lili Rose ... "

When the hospice nurse took me aside and said, If there's some bitterness between you and your father now's the time to make it up, later will be too late, I said right away, "That's up to my father, I think." Everything was up to him. God damn if I'd say I was sorry when I was not sorry.

I think Daddy knows me. Sometimes. Still he stiffens as if he's afraid I might touch him, and moves his head in a tight little nod when I speak to him, though I can feel him staring at me, at my back, when I leave the room, and always I'm thinking he's going to call me back in his old teasing voice -- Hey Curly Red, c'mon! Let's make it up.

Curly Red. That name I haven't heard from anyone's lips in twenty-seven years.

I'm waiting. I'm certain that hour will come.

We were Mariana, and Rick, and Emily, and Leo, and Mario, and Johnny Jr., and Lili Rose. Daddy would stare at us in disgust, picking at his teeth with a silver toothpick. "Christ! Looks like a platoon." He was proud of us and loved us, though. Most of the time.

We lived in a large wood-frame house Daddy made sure was always painted and in good repair, front and back lawns mowed, sidewalk shoveled in winter. There was a tall red maple in front that turned fiery and splendid in October. Our house was at the dead end of Crescent Avenue, above the Niagara River. It was a steep dizzy drop to the riverbank. Cliffs on both sides were exposed shale that always looked wet, sharp. Beyond the dead end was a no-man's-land of scrub trees and thistles and sumac that flamed up in early autumn, where young kids played. It was a dangerous playing area, if you lost your footing. The view of the river from our house was beautiful, I guess. A river you see every day, from the window of your own room, you take for granted until one day it's gone from you. I cried a lot when I was sent away.

But the river got into my dreams. Wide, and glittery like fish scales, always choppy like a living thing restless beneath its skin. Miles away the thunderous Falls like a nightmare. Always there was a wind, and in winter the air could freeze your eyelashes together in a few seconds. There was that morning in December you'd wake to see the river had frozen, turned to black ice.

I had a happy childhood in that house. Nobody can take that from me.

This clipping from the Perrysburg Journal I saved until it was so dry it fell to pieces in my fingers. An obituary beneath a two-inch-high photo of a shyly smiling black boy with a gap between two prominent front teeth.

Jadro Filer, 17. Resident of Bayside Street, Perrysburg. Varsity basketball at Perrysburg High School. Choir, Bible Baptist Church. Died in Perrysburg General Hospital, April 11, 1973, of severe head injuries following an attack early in the morning of April 9 by yet unidentified assailants as he was walking on Route 11. Survived by his mother, Ethel, his sisters, Louise and Ida, and his brothers, Tyrone, Medrick, and Herman. Services Monday at Bible Baptist Church.
Continues...

Excerpted from I Am No One You Know by Oates, Joyce Carol Excerpted by permission.
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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Table of Contents

Curly red 3
In hiding 21
I'm not your son, I am no one you know 28
Aiding and abetting 37
Fugitive 49
Me & Wolfie, 1979 54
The girl and the blackened eye 73
Cumberland breakdown 87
Upholstery 105
Wolf's Head Lake 117
Happiness 119
Fire 138
The instructor 157
The skull : a love story 191
The deaths : an elegy 213
Jorie (& Jamie) : a deposition 233
Mrs. Halifax and Rickie Swann : a ballad 245
Three girls 271
The mutants 281
Acknowledgments 289
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First Chapter

I Am No One You Know
Stories

Chapter One

Curly Red

I was Daddy's favorite of his seven kids, but still he sent me into exile when I was thirteen and refused to speak to me for twenty-seven years, nor would he allow me to return to our house on Crescent Avenue, Perrysburg, New York, even when Grandma died (though he couldn't keep me away from the funeral mass at St. Stephen's and afterward the burial in the church cemetery, where I stood at a distance, crying) when I was twenty-two. Only in the final months of his life, when Daddy was weakened with emphysema and the anger leaked from him, was I allowed to return to help Mom sometimes. Because now Mom needed me. But it was never the same between us.

Daddy was only seventy-three when he died, but he looked much older, ravaged. Always he'd driven himself hard, working (plumber, pipe fitter), drinking heavily, smoking, raging. He'd been involved all his working life with union politics. Feuds with employers, and with other union members and organizers. Every election, Daddy was in a fever for weeks. One of those men involved behind the scenes. "Delivering the Perrysburg labor vote." A hard-muscled man with a roostery air of self-esteem, yet edgy, suspicious. Daddy was a local character, a known person. He'd been an amateur boxer, light heavyweight, in the U.S. Army (1950–52), and worked out at a downtown gym, had a punching bag and a heavy bag in the garage, sparred with my brothers, who could never, swift on their feet as they were, stay out of reach of his "dynamite" right cross. When I was living with relatives across town, in what I call my exile, I knew my father at a distance: caught glimpses of him on the street, saw his picture in the paper. Then things changed, younger men were coming up in the union, Daddy and his friends lost power, Daddy got sick, and one sickness led to another. By the time I was allowed back in the house on Crescent Avenue, Daddy was under hospice care, and he'd turned into an old man, shrunken by fifty pounds, furrows in his face like you'd make in a piecrust with a fork. I stared and stared. Was this my father? That face I knew to be ruddy-skinned, good-looking, now gaunt and strangely collapsed about the mouth. Even his shrewd eyes were smaller and shifting worriedly in their sockets as if he was thinking, Is it in the room with me yet?

John Dellamora, who'd always been contemptuous of weakness in others and in himself, now dependent upon breathing oxygen through a nose piece. Watching me sidelong as I approached his bed bearing a bouquet of white carnations in my trembling hand.

"Daddy? It's Lili Rose ... "

When the hospice nurse took me aside and said, If there's some bitterness between you and your father now's the time to make it up, later will be too late, I said right away, "That's up to my father, I think." Everything was up to him. God damn if I'd say I was sorry when I was not sorry.

I think Daddy knows me. Sometimes. Still he stiffens as if he's afraid I might touch him, and moves his head in a tight little nod when I speak to him, though I can feel him staring at me, at my back, when I leave the room, and always I'm thinking he's going to call me back in his old teasing voice -- Hey Curly Red, c'mon! Let's make it up.

Curly Red. That name I haven't heard from anyone's lips in twenty-seven years.

I'm waiting. I'm certain that hour will come.

We were Mariana, and Rick, and Emily, and Leo, and Mario, and Johnny Jr., and Lili Rose. Daddy would stare at us in disgust, picking at his teeth with a silver toothpick. "Christ! Looks like a platoon." He was proud of us and loved us, though. Most of the time.

We lived in a large wood-frame house Daddy made sure was always painted and in good repair, front and back lawns mowed, sidewalk shoveled in winter. There was a tall red maple in front that turned fiery and splendid in October. Our house was at the dead end of Crescent Avenue, above the Niagara River. It was a steep dizzy drop to the riverbank. Cliffs on both sides were exposed shale that always looked wet, sharp. Beyond the dead end was a no-man's-land of scrub trees and thistles and sumac that flamed up in early autumn, where young kids played. It was a dangerous playing area, if you lost your footing. The view of the river from our house was beautiful, I guess. A river you see every day, from the window of your own room, you take for granted until one day it's gone from you. I cried a lot when I was sent away.

But the river got into my dreams. Wide, and glittery like fish scales, always choppy like a living thing restless beneath its skin. Miles away the thunderous Falls like a nightmare. Always there was a wind, and in winter the air could freeze your eyelashes together in a few seconds. There was that morning in December you'd wake to see the river had frozen, turned to black ice.

I had a happy childhood in that house. Nobody can take that from me.

This clipping from the Perrysburg Journal I saved until it was so dry it fell to pieces in my fingers. An obituary beneath a two-inch-high photo of a shyly smiling black boy with a gap between two prominent front teeth.

Jadro Filer, 17. Resident of Bayside Street, Perrysburg. Varsity basketball at Perrysburg High School. Choir, Bible Baptist Church. Died in Perrysburg General Hospital, April 11, 1973, of severe head injuries following an attack early in the morning of April 9 by yet unidentified assailants as he was walking on Route 11. Survived by his mother, Ethel, his sisters, Louise and Ida, and his brothers, Tyrone, Medrick, and Herman. Services Monday at Bible Baptist Church.
I Am No One You Know
Stories
. Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2004

    Short stories in true Oates fashion

    This woman is the consummate short story writer. Not only can she write wonderful novels, but her prose is so fabulous, none of it goes to waste, even in the short story genre. Kirkus Reviews is a shameful discourse about the truly remarkable writing(s) of this equally remarkable woman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    I loved it.

    This book kept me reading well into the night. Every story sucked me in and made me care about the characters. I've even reread some of it, which is rare for me.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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