Solstice

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Overview

One of the most engrossing of Joyce Carol Oates's earlier novels explores a relationship between two women.
Originally published in 1985, Solstice is the gripping story of Monica Jensen and Sheila Trask, two young women who are complete opposites yet irresistibly attracted to each other. Blonde, shy, recently divorced Monica is a school teacher; dark, nocturnal, sophisticated Sheila is a painter of stature, driven by the needs of her art. Over ...

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Overview

One of the most engrossing of Joyce Carol Oates's earlier novels explores a relationship between two women.
Originally published in 1985, Solstice is the gripping story of Monica Jensen and Sheila Trask, two young women who are complete opposites yet irresistibly attracted to each other. Blonde, shy, recently divorced Monica is a school teacher; dark, nocturnal, sophisticated Sheila is a painter of stature, driven by the needs of her art. Over the months, their friendship deepens, first to love and then to a near-fatal obsession.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
A powerful beam into the dark places of the soul.
West Coast Review of Books
Oates's novel is spellbinding, entrancing reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865381001
  • Publisher: Ontario Review Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Pages: 243
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is one of our most important and well known writers—and one of America’s foremost writers of the short story form. She is also a regular contributor of reviews and criticism for the New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. She also reads and lectures widely throughout the US, at universities and bookstores.

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

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    WTF? Thanks again, JCO!

    This has been one of my favorite Joyce Carol Oates reads, because it covers one of my favorite themes she hits upon--a friendship or relationship, unusual in its beginning or unexpected in who is matched up with who, begin to grow exponentially at a feverish pace, until it comes to some dramatic or unexpected conclusion.
    That relationship in this book is between a schoolteacher, Monica and her famous artist neighbor, Sheila. I was reading, at the same time, Michael Cunningham's BY NIGHTFALL, and found some reoccurring themes, most notably, the personality of a famous artist. Also, the emptiness and vapidness of high society, and its allure, as when Monica gets caught up in Sheila's dramatic and sometimes melodramatic life.
    As with all of these intense relationships created by Oates, I was sucked into it as was Monica. I have this affinity to Oates' books, in that, I seem to get as caught up in the same whirlwind as her characters, and find I cannot put the book down. If I do, I am haunted by it, and want to pick it up again, to be submerged in the craziness and chaos of the relationships. Everything started off so simple and harmless, and events and thoughts and decisions just keep coming at you, and find that the "logic" that gets her characters from A to B has seduced into its web. You find yourself seeing and experiencing and feeling everything as the characters do. Then, when it starts to feel off, you have gone along so far with it, that you are trapped, and can't help believe all the crazy stuff, as if it were a nightmare. I do not know how JCO gets so far into the craziness and madness of a troubled mind, and is not a gibbering lunatic herself. I also do not know if I was supposed to laugh or cry, mock or take seriously. I haven't felt this undecided about tone, since I watched to movie SAFE, with Julianne Moore, and that's a good thing. You don't know what to do, and yet you go along, unable to stop reading.
    Sometimes, it is a little off-putting when the author decided to repeat certain adjectives and descriptions of people. Sheila always had a wide mouth and derisive eyes. Monica was always sloe-eyed. But, still, these women were full sketched-out people. Monica, who couldn't seem to stay away from or refuse Sheila, despite her behavior, reminded me of a bully in school, that I was "friends" with, even though he wanted me to always let him copy and give him answers. I couldn't resist being friends with him. Also, JCO captured one's inability or articulate strong feeling, and how they sometimes are two things at the same time.
    The book was fantastic, lurid, gothic, tragic, shocking, and written well. She is so great because she can be both pulp, and literature, base and prolific. Most people have the shocks and nothing underneath, like the rash of exploitative torture and horro movies lately. Her books stick with you, since behind all of the shock is solid, amazing writing. Great for fans of SWF, IDENTITY, MULLHOLAND DRIVE (sp?), THREE WOMEN, or any such intense relationship, switcheroo thingy.

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