Man Crazy

( 6 )

Overview

Fresh from the triumph of We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates continues her exploration of family love and possibilities of human redemption with this compelling story of how one young woman suffers profoundly in the pursuit of love, but manages to emerge safe and whole. Set in several towns on the Chatauqua River in upstate New York, Man Crazy tells the story of Ingrid Boone, who at age eight is taken into hiding by her beautiful young mother, Chloe. Sought by the men who have taunted Chloe, the ...

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Overview

Fresh from the triumph of We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates continues her exploration of family love and possibilities of human redemption with this compelling story of how one young woman suffers profoundly in the pursuit of love, but manages to emerge safe and whole. Set in several towns on the Chatauqua River in upstate New York, Man Crazy tells the story of Ingrid Boone, who at age eight is taken into hiding by her beautiful young mother, Chloe. Sought by the men who have taunted Chloe, the authorities, and Ingrid's loving but volatile father still haunted by memories of Vietnam, Ingrid and her mother fight to survive both together and apart. "Man crazy" is the label assigned to teenage Ingrid, whose desperate need to find a substitute for her father's affection makes her easy prey for the charismatic leader of a violent cult. Eventually, the police surround the cult compound and a tense standoff erupts in bullets and flames. Ingrid escapes to rebuild her life, and Oates' depiction of this severely damaged young woman's slow but miraculous process of healing stands as one of the most brilliant portraits she has ever created. Oates' gift for haunting imagery reaches new heights in this emotionally resonant work.

  • This will be published simultaneously with the Dutton release of a major new novel from Oates, My Heart Laid Bare.
  • We Were the Mulvaneys was a national bestseller.
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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Judd

Reading Man Crazy made me want to take a long, hot shower to wash away the sheer unpleasantness of Joyce Carol Oates' fictional world. And Ingrid Boone, Oates' narrator, suffers far more than I did -- she literally itches with the creepiness that surrounds her, scratching at her own skin until it oozes and bleeds.

Ingrid's childhood is spent in upstate New York, piecing together the disturbing facts of her family life and waiting with her mother, Chloe, for her father, a hot-tempered Vietnam vet who's fleeing the police, to reappear. Chloe is a beautiful blond who accepts violence as inevitable. She tells her daughter that men shoot pigeons because "it's what men do when they can't shoot one another." The earliest chapters, which can successfully stand on their own and have been published as short stories, are the finest parts of the book and offer plenty of examples of Oates' literary skill and gift for offhand, surprisingly insightful comments.

The novel suddenly loses all sense of perspective when Ingrid hits adolescence and enters the mysterious milieu of drugs and submissive sex, instead of just observing her parents' chaotic world from the sidelines. Because Oates never comments on Ingrid's confused story, it's hard to fathom why she becomes Dog-girl, a member of the Satan's Children biker group, and why she's in thrall to the cult's leader, a poor man's Manson called Enoch Skaggs. All we know is that Ingrid is swept up in a world of human sacrifice and absolute madness that's described in graphic yet weirdly dull detail: "Dozens of bullets tore through him so his blood and meat-tissue and certain of his organs and his intestines would seep out onto the grassless ground where he fell beside the rust-desiccated hulk of an abandoned tractor seeping like cooked fruit leaking through cheesecloth ..." You get the idea.

Oates faithfully conveys what it feels like to be Ingrid, expressing the experiences of Dog-girl in her own words, with no mediation whatsoever. The problem is that Ingrid's thoughts range from the addled to the banal, and the events that she describes are as disjointed as images flashing on MTV. Oates' refusal to sort out Ingrid's messy ordeal leaves us with nothing beyond the girl's own half-baked notion that she's seeking her absent father and feels she deserves any punishment men mete out. Man Crazy is, to borrow from William James, all heat and no light. Oates has taken us to hell and back without providing the insight or sustenance to make it a trip worth taking. -- Salon

Chicago Tribune
A major acheivement that stands...as a testament to the restorative power of love and the capacity to endure and prevail.
San Francisco Chronicle
A grand symphonic novel...one of Oates' finest efforts.
NY Times Book Review
What keeps us coming back to Oates Country is her uncanny gift of making the page a window, with something happening on the other side that we'd swear was life itself.
LA Times Book Review
New testimony to Oates' great intelligence and dead-on imaginative powers. It is a book that will break your heart, heal it, then break it again every time you think about it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Narrator Ingrid Boone tells the story of her desperate, unbalanced young life in one long, breathless monologue, behind which the alert reader may hear echoes of such popular classics of mental illness as The Bell Jar and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Despite a few stock characters and gaudy plot flourishes, however, this harrowing tale by the prolific Oates (following the well-received We Were the Mulvaneys) crackles with dramatic intensity punctuated by beautiful turns of phrase. Ingrid is the daughter of sometimes loving but erratically violent parents. Her sluttish mother, Chloe, hangs on to her sanity by a thread, while her dashing but brutal pilot father, whom she rarely sees, is a fugitive from the law. The instability and neglect of her childhood leave Ingrid emotionally dissociated; only the contempt and torture she seeks and endures from the many men in her life make her feel alive. Late in the novel, it strikes her with the force of mystical revelation that she could learn to feel real when she is not in pain. Ingrid's story careens wildly through the back roads of rural New York, where she and her mother go into hiding, and where she first hears ghost voices. Later, there is her teenaged promiscuity, drinking and drug use as she searches for masculine love, even as she writes poetry and tries to find a norm for her existence. By the time of her catastrophic involvement with the leader of a Satanist biker cult, a walking tabloid headline who calls her "Dog-girl," she is teetering on the edge of sanity. The bizarre twists and turns of Ingrid's life take on a hallucinatory intensity, but the one constant of the gripping storythe emotional deprivation that has scarred Ingrid for lifecomes through with a fierce, burning clarity.
Library Journal
Ingrid Boone and her too-young momma, Chloe, live a hard-bitten life on New York's Chautauqua River as they flee Luke, a Vietnam vet who fathered Ingrid. The mostly no-account men who people Chloe's boozy existence pale beside crazed Luke, who keeps tracking down his family. Little wonder that Ingrid grows into a self-destructive adolescent, sinking into a morass of drugs and self-mutilation, believing that the path to love is lots of pain. Under the thrall of the cult leader of a motorcycle gang, Ingrid suffers a downward spiral that is nearly complete when she is gang-raped, forced to witness a decapitation, then imprisoned in a filthy basement with nothing to eat but garbage and animal waste. At the end, Oates...asks readers to believe that two years of hospitalization and intensive therapy bring Ingrid miraculous redemption and true love in the arms of her much older former psychiatrist. An ugly tale told, without question, by a master of evocative misery, but to what purpose? For Oates fans only.
Library Journal
Ingrid Boone and her too-young momma, Chloe, live a hard-bitten life on New York's Chautauqua River as they flee Luke, a Vietnam vet who fathered Ingrid. The mostly no-account men who people Chloe's boozy existence pale beside crazed Luke, who keeps tracking down his family. Little wonder that Ingrid grows into a self-destructive adolescent, sinking into a morass of drugs and self-mutilation, believing that the path to love is lots of pain. Under the thrall of the cult leader of a motorcycle gang, Ingrid suffers a downward spiral that is nearly complete when she is gang-raped, forced to witness a decapitation, then imprisoned in a filthy basement with nothing to eat but garbage and animal waste. At the end, Oates...asks readers to believe that two years of hospitalization and intensive therapy bring Ingrid miraculous redemption and true love in the arms of her much older former psychiatrist. An ugly tale told, without question, by a master of evocative misery, but to what purpose? For Oates fans only.
Kirkus Reviews
Oates' 27th novel, following fast on the heels of last year's highly praised We Were the Mulvaneys, revisits the depressed upstate New York environs of her earliest (and perhaps most typical) fiction.

It's the first-person story of 21-year-old Ingrid Boone, a small-town girl who has survived her estranged parents' rootlessness and chaotic behavior, a drug- and sex-addicted adolescence, and her captivity as the slavelike "Dog-girl" of a violent, messianic biker who rules a cult called "Satan's Children." The narrative proceeds through a succession of dreamlike short scenes that replay Ingrid's sometimes discontinuous (though mainly chronological) memories and fantasies. Ingrid is a generously imagined and vividly realized character: The deprivations and self-hatred that set her on her self-destructive path are rendered with savage clarity, and Oates makes us believe that she's also a bright, sensitive girl who seeks imaginative refuge from her traumatizing circumstances by writing poetry. The characterizations of her mother Chloe, a weak-willed beauty who'll do anything to survive, and her father Luke, a Vietnam fighter pilot who knows he can't escape his violent nature ("I'm shit in the eyes of God"), are equally compelling—as is Oates's presentation of their helpless, mutually destructive love. But the novel has flaws, including occasionally slack writing and careless anachronisms. And in the character of the sexually charismatic cultist Enoch Skaggs, Oates draws another of the unconvincingly feverish caricatures that mar several of her more portentous stories. Nor does it seem necessary to spell out the source of Ingrid's sociopathic downward progression ("Crazy for men they say it's really your own daddy you seek").

Nevertheless, as in Mulvaneys, Oates shows us the paradoxical resilience that sustains people who endure more than we can imagine, and somehow hang on. Her boldly drawn grotesques reach out to us, making us believe in them and care about their fates.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452277243
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, including We Were the Mulvaneys, Black Water, and Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart (available in Plume editions), Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of works of gothic fiction including Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (Plume), a 1995 World Fantasy Award nominee; and Zombie (Plume), winner of the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, awarded by the Horror Writers' Association. In 1994, Oates received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction. She is the editor of American Gothic Tales and her latest novel is Broke Heart Blues (Dutton). She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2011

    Difficulty recommending- Not my favorite piece of writing

    Joyce Carol Oates, an unfamiliar author to me, did an implausible job at describing her characters' thought process, feelings, and actions. Unfortunately the actions and thoughts of the characters are very striking and dissolute. I found that the pattern of the plot in this novel was like a steep declining slope. Ingrid, the main character of Man Crazy showed no standards or conscience. I struggled with this type of literature because, yes the book may have been realistic and appealing, but I read to get away from the realistic world. Man Crazy did not teach good ethics or proper decision making skills. Joyce Carol Oates did not provide a main character to act as a role model for her readers. If she was, then her lesson was pre-marriage sex is okay. She taught that education is stupid and not worth the time and that drugs are appealing and solve your problems. She taught that abuse is normal and after all of this, your life will turn out on the right track. I am not going to totally bash on Joyce Carol Oates writing. She was superior in showing the pattern of cause and effect, action and reaction, and mistake and punishment. I can honestly say I when reading this piece of writing I felt like I was in Ingrid's situation and environment because of Oates eloquent style. When down reading a portion of Man Crazy my sentiment and emotions would depend on what had just happened in the novel. I also have to applaud Oates for her originality of Man Crazy. Her storyline opened my eyes of how there are a lot worse trials and life conditions than mine. Oates proved to me that the events that occurred in this story happen all the time to regular people . . . maybe not all the events to one person but she showed that the world isn't perfect and simple. In the end I would have to say that I would not recommend this book to just anyone. It takes maturity to accept the choices Ingrid and other characters make in Man Crazy. Fantasy lovers or adventure and action seekers would not enjoy this book. If you take pleasure in romance or realistic fiction you could probably read this book without having too much problems with it.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Crazy Man Ends Man Crazy

    Ingrid learns abandonment from men at a young age when her father flees from from murder charges, leaving her and her mother behind. She is plagued childlike fantasies of her father and self mutilation. Oates' most powerful writing prevails in a deftly crafted scene of Ingrid's poetic presentation at a high school assembly, which also serves as Ingrid's turning point. A string of self deprecating affairs climaxes with the leader of a Satanic cult, ultimately shaping the novel's outcome.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2008

    man crazy

    I absolutely reccommend reading this book as it was entirely realistic and unpredictable. You didn't know where Oates was taking you next. We follow Ingrid from dysfunctional semi tragic child life through teen years of sex drugs and abuse and finally, the redemption of a life gone wrong gotten back still with only semi normalcy. A well written page turning novel by a literary phenomenon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2008

    Unlike anything I have ever read

    This was a really great story that kept me turning the pages. I was hooked from the beginning. I finished this book in a few days. Some of abuse scenes were very graphic but the ending made up for it. I cant wait to read more of her books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2005

    Read something else by Oates

    JCO is my favorite author, but I found this novel lacking. I found it too violent and I couldn't connect to the main character. I recommend reading her other books: A Garden of Earthly Delights, Them, and We Were the Mulvaney's.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 1999

    The First of JCO I've read, but certainly not the last!

    JCO was recommended on a list of well known contemporary American authors, and now I can certainly see why. She has the outstanding abililty to realistically describe a person at his or her lowest point. Yes this novel could have been better, and yes it was a little overwhelming when it came to the sex and abuse, but the fact that it was so vivid in diction was what struck me the hardest. JCO'S creative narrative style of Ingrid, it's flashbacks and suddens crashes into the present, force you to stay alert to the novel.

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