Mudwoman: A Novel

( 27 )

Overview

Mudgirl is a child abandoned in the silty flats of the Black Snake River. Cast aside, Mudgirl survives by an accident of fate—or destiny. After her rescue, the well-meaning couple who adopt Mudgirl quarantine her poisonous history behind the barrier of their middle-class values. But the bulwark of the present proves surprisingly vulnerable to the agents of the past.

Meredith "M.R." Neukirchen is the first woman president of an Ivy League university. Her commitment to her career ...

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Mudwoman

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Overview

Mudgirl is a child abandoned in the silty flats of the Black Snake River. Cast aside, Mudgirl survives by an accident of fate—or destiny. After her rescue, the well-meaning couple who adopt Mudgirl quarantine her poisonous history behind the barrier of their middle-class values. But the bulwark of the present proves surprisingly vulnerable to the agents of the past.

Meredith "M.R." Neukirchen is the first woman president of an Ivy League university. Her commitment to her career and moral fervor for her role are all-consuming, but when confronted with challenges to her leadership she could not have anticipated, the fierce idealism and intelligence that delivered her from a more conventional life threaten to undo her.

A reckless trip thrusts M.R. into an unexpected psychic collision with Mudgirl and the life M.R. believes she has left behind. A powerful exploration of the enduring claims of the past, Mudwoman is at once a psychic ghost story and an intimate and compelling portrait of a highly complex contemporary woman cracking the glass ceiling at enormous personal cost.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
"Extraordinarily intense, racking, and resonant... Masterfully enmeshing nightmare with reality, Oates has created a resolute, incisive, and galvanizing drama about our deep connection to place, the persistence of the past, and the battles of a resilient soul under siege… A major, controversy-ready novel from high-profile, protean Oates."
the Oprah Magazine O
“This chilling novel opens with a child left to die in a silty riverbed, a memory that no amount of later life success can erase.”
Ms. Magazine
"Joyce Carol Oates’ latest novel is about many things, but first and foremost it is about the complications of being a high-achieving woman in the 21st century…Oates tells [her protagonist’s story] with a detail and relish that’s both heartbreaking and fascinating."
O: the Oprah Magazine
“This chilling novel opens with a child left to die in a silty riverbed, a memory that no amount of later life success can erase.”
Wall Street Journal
“…The Oates style, with its fractious barrage of dashes, suggests what [Emily] Dickenson might have produced if she had written doorstop novels instead of short poems…[Oates] is especially perceptive in showing the political tightrope that M.R. has to walk in her powerful but fragile position at the university…”
USA Today
“Oates [displays] the insights into human bonds that make her brilliant....Oates makes [her character’s] torment come alive. We grasp her compulsion to return to the mud of the past in order find her true self.”
The New Yorker
“[A] powerful novel…[Oates] deftly interweaves M.R.’s present, memories of her troubled childhood, and her feverish hallucinations…This hypnotic novel suggests that forgetting the past may be the heavy cost that success demands.”
Financial Times
“Oates is an extremely visceral writer…Mudwoman is a genuinely unsettling book in which Oates pays her readers the compliment of never letting them settle or even being entirely sure about what they have just read.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Madness and malevolence squirm on almost every page in Joyce Carol Oates’ 38th novel… Oates’ dark brilliance is ever evident in her main characters, complex souls with mysterious corners in their psyches…”
New York Times Book Review
“There’s a freshness to this novel, a sense of some new, more personal beginning. It’s bold... to paint achievement... as just the flip side of victimization—and it’s perhaps even bolder to make such visceral drama from the story of a workaholic who finally confronts life unhooked from a keyboard.”
New York Post
“[A] disturbing, psychological thriller.”
New York Review of Books
“Mudwoman is very good at the performance of the public life of the woman president…The unraveling of this performance is grippingly horrible.”
Ms. magazine
“Joyce Carol Oates’ latest novel is about many things, but first and foremost it is about the complications of being a high-achieving woman in the 21st century…Oates tells [her protagonist’s story] with a detail and relish that’s both heartbreaking and fascinating.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Extraordinarily intense, racking, and resonant... Masterfully enmeshing nightmare with reality, Oates has created a resolute, incisive, and galvanizing drama about our deep connection to place, the persistence of the past, and the battles of a resilient soul under siege… A major, controversy-ready novel from high-profile, protean Oates.”
Huffington Post
“Uniquely personal… an intriguing departure from token Oates tales.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“[A] disturbing exploration of selfhood…As always, Joyce Carol Oates masterfully evokes a sense of menace, if not malevolence, while drawing her readers deep into the psychology of her characters… a dark, intelligent and deeply compelling novel... which will hold you in its thrall until the end.”
Maria Russo
Even as it travels over familiar Oates territory, there's a freshness to this novel, a sense of some new, more personal beginning. It's bold of Joyce Carol Oates to paint achievement akin to her own as just the flip side of victimization—and it's perhaps even bolder to make such visceral drama from the story of a workaholic who finally confronts life unhooked from a keyboard.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Oates begins her 38th novel with a nod to Nietzsche (“What is man? A ball of snakes”) that lies at the mud-caked heart of this tale of the rise and stumbling fall of M.R. Neukirchen, a brilliant academic whose childhood starts in the mudflats of the Black Snake River, where she is abandoned in 1965. But by 2002, M.R. has reached the top of the ivory tower. After a full ride to Cornell, and a Ph.D. from Harvard, she is now, at 41, the first female president of another Ivy institution. M.R.’s ambitious plans include upending the patriarchy and increasing diversity on campus, but both prove difficult in the post-9/11 “era of ‘Patriotism’” as the U.S. prepares to invade Iraq. M.R.’s identity, idealism, and sanity are all threatened as she wades through obstacles, including sabotaging right-wing colleagues and students. Though she has never considered herself the victim of sexism, M.R. must confront her gender when it becomes the lens through which her leadership is judged. Likewise, the philosophical question she has dedicated her career to answering—what is the self?—must be turned inward. Oates’s prose, dominated by run-on sentences to imitate fury or swiftness and a colloquial voice lacking nuance, is uninspired, but fans will relish the depth of this inquiry. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062095633
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 465
  • Sales rank: 617,181
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 1.16 (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.

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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 2
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 17, 2012

    What a strange story. The line between reality and delusion is

    What a strange story. The line between reality and delusion is sometimes very tenuous. Typical JCO plotting and characterizations. I really wanted to love this book as I have so many others of hers. And I did, except I really hated some of it. This is not one of those "you have to read this" books, but I am really glad that I stuck w/it. Not for every reader, except maybe real fans. (keep a dictionary handy)!

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted June 23, 2013

    Terrible

    Read half way through this book hoping it would get better but it only got even more unintetesting. Dont waste your time reading this book...

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 19, 2012

    Classic JCO

    I admire and appreciate that she shared her opinion of the heinous Bush era wars.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 13, 2012

    No rating......I really wanted to like this book. It is really


    No rating......I really wanted to like this book.
    It is really boring....dull, with characters you cannot be drawn to even want to like...

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Mudwoman

    Slow read. Not as good as other Joyce Carol Oats books.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 28, 2013

    At best

    Not really worth it

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 12, 2013

    Couldn't read it. Subject too sad.

    Couldn't finish this book. Subject too sad.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 10, 2013

    Hard to follow

    I gave up after trying to follow this for a while
    Very hard to stay with the story

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Strenuous

    This was a chore to read which is why i couldnt stick with it. This author rambles on and on making this a slow clumsy read. I do not reccomend it. At least it was cheap.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 3, 2013

    zero stars

    worst book I ever read - ugh

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    Really

    I read as far as page 213 and quit to find something more intelligent.
    What a waste of money.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted January 25, 2013

    R

    Bad. Less than 1/2 star.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 28, 2013

    Boring

    Didn't like it.

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

    Posted December 8, 2013

    Not sure what I just read...

    Very hard to finish. What started as interesting just got more confusing and boring. The ending was horrible. It's like the author forgot to write the last few chapters.

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

    Posted June 8, 2012

    Mudwoman

    Usually love oates books but could not finish this one.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 2, 2012

    Dull

    Just couldnt get into the story

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews

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