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Sourland

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Overview

A gripping and moving new collection of stories that reimagines the meaning of loss—through often unexpected and violent means.

Joyce Carol Oates is not only one of our most important novelists and literary critics, she is also an unparalleled master of the short story. Sourland—sixteen previously uncollected stories that explore how the power of violence, loss, and grief shape both the psyche and the soul—shows us an author work-ing at the ...

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Sourland: Stories

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Overview

A gripping and moving new collection of stories that reimagines the meaning of loss—through often unexpected and violent means.

Joyce Carol Oates is not only one of our most important novelists and literary critics, she is also an unparalleled master of the short story. Sourland—sixteen previously uncollected stories that explore how the power of violence, loss, and grief shape both the psyche and the soul—shows us an author work-ing at the height of her powers.

With lapidary precision and an unflinching eye, Oates maps the surprising contours of “ordinary” life. From a desperate man who dons a jack-o’-lantern head as a prelude to a most curious sort of courtship, to a “story of a stabbing” many times recounted in the life of a lonely girl; from a beguiling young woman librarian whose amputee state attracts a married man and father, to a girl hopelessly in love with her renegade, incarcerated cousin; from a professor’s wife who finds herself tragically isolated at a party in her own house, to the concluding title story of an unexpectedly redemptive love rooted in radical aloneness and isolation, each story in Sourland resonates beautifully with Oates’s trademark fascination for the unpredictable amid the prosaic—the comming-ling of sexual love and violence, the tumult of family life—and shines with her predilection for dark humor and her gift for voice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Oates's latest collection explores certain favorite Oatesian themes, primary among them violence, loss, and privilege. Three of the stories feature white, upper-class, educated widows whose sheltered married lives have left them unprepared for life alone. In "Pumpkin-Head" and "Sourland," the widows--Hadley in the first story, Sophie in the second--encounter a class of Oatesian male: predatory, needy lurkers just out of prosperity's reach. In the first story, our lurker is Anton Kruppe, a Central European immigrant and vague acquaintance of Hadley whose frustrations boil over in a disastrous way. In the second story, Sophie is contacted by Jeremiah, an old friend of her late husband, and eventually visits him in middle-of-nowhere northern Minnesota, where she discovers, too late, his true intentions. The third widow story, "Probate," concerns Adrienne Myer's surreal visit to the courthouse to register her late husband's will, but Oates has other plans for Adrienne, who is soon lost in a warped bureaucratic funhouse worthy of Kafka. Oates's fiction has the curious, morbid draw of a flaming car wreck. It's a testament to Oates's talent that she can nearly always force the reader to look. (Sept.)
Chicago Tribune
“Making sense of life in a cataclysmic inner and outer landscape has been Joyce Carol Oates’ obsession for five decades. This evocative new collection shows just how much sense she can make of it now.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“...Innovative, brilliant...there are sentences that leave a deeply sensuous pleasure in their wake...”
New York Times
“A master class in the art of pure, suspenseful storytelling...Oates is a dangerous writer in the best sense of the word, one who takes risks almost obsessively with energy and relish… [a] dazzling collection.”
Los Angeles Times
“We think of Oates, like Poe, as a master of terror, but her real mastery is in almost never depicting a strong emotion in isolation...Oates makes for a caustic companion in Sourland - a fearless experimenter forcing the reader ahead of her at knifepoint.”
Buffalo News
“Oates remains . . . a living master of the short story-far more virtuosic in manner than the ecstatic realist she is usually taken to be and far more at home in the form, too.”
Boston Herald
“Admirers of Oates’ literary fiction will find this collection a transcendent read. Dear Husband is likely to win Oates new fans as well. Oates’ characters are masterfully rendered, but she is particularly gifted at creating a certain type: The appallingly egocentric, sometimes to the point of unwitting hostility.”
Boston Globe
“America simmers in the writings of Joyce Carol Oates, going through the motions of everyday life as best it can, but prone to boiling over at any moment. Oatess . . . has once again held a haunting mirror up to America, revealing who we are.”
Julie Myerson
This collection could be used as a master class in the art of pure, suspenseful storytelling. There are real plots here, fascinating psychological and domestic mysteries we need to solve, portraying people we want to understand…Oates is a dangerous writer in the best sense of the word, one who takes risks almost obsessively, with energy and relish. For a writer in her early 70s, she continues to be wonderfully, unnervingly anarchic, experimental, angry. As if her aim were not to satisfy or entertain—though she always does both—but to do the vandalistic prose equivalent of spray-painting or setting fire to bins in public parks.
—The New York Times
Philadelphia City Paper
“Oates explores incest, death by fitness center, accidental death; it’s not light reading, but twined into these human tragedies are bits and pieces found in all our lives.”
Associated Press
“Although nearly all 14 stories have been published elsewhere, they merit a book of their own. Admirers of Oates’ literary fiction will find this collection a transcendent read. Dear Husband is likely to win Oates new fans as well. Oates’ characters are masterfully rendered.”
Kirkus Reviews

More of (mostly) the same in Oates's latest collection of 16 in-your-face short stories.

Faithful readers will note the familiar mixture of vividly conceived psychodramas redeemed by raw intensity and immediacy, and clichéd depictions of vulnerable and victimized souls dominated by overdrawn avatars of ego and appetite. The latter include a clenched account of a suburban mom's joyless dalliance with an unfeeling, abusive lover ("Babysitter"); a recent widow's predictable Kafkaesque entrapment in the coils of the legal system ("Probate"); and the seemingly endless tale of an uprooted family destined to make ruinously wrong decisions, notably its "sensitive" daughter's attraction to the romantic sociopathy of her sullen male cousin ("Honor Code"). When not idling along at her worst, Oates shows flashes of the gritty hyperbolic lucidity that can make her stories rattle around in your head for days after you've read them. She manages credible and moving empathy in relating the experiences of another recent widow hopelessly drawn to a creepy admirer ("Pumpkin-Head"); a former gang member hoping against hope to become a responsible adult ("Bounty Hunter"); a boy desperate to make any sacrifice that might enable his ailing hospital-bound father to recover ("The Barter"); and an alienated teenager ("Bitch") seduced almost magically back into caring for her moribund father. Even the better of these stories are blemished by contrivance and shrillness, as is even the volume's rightful centerpiece, its title story, in which a woman still yearning for her recently deceased husband accepts an invitation to visit the latter's sinister old acquaintance—a recluse who refers cryptically to himself as a "pilgrim in perpetual quest." In fact he is, as explicit symbolism makes clear, her immediate future and destiny. Despite its forced awkwardness, this is one of the author's strongest and most haunting stories in years.

Oates being Oates. Let the reader beware.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061996528
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 373
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (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 Chicago Tribune 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 the national bestsellers 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

Table of Contents

I

Pumpkin-Head 3

The Story of the Stabbing 22

Babysitter 40

Bonobo Momma 53

Bitch 67

Amputee 72

II

The Beating 107

Bounty Hunter 136

The Barter 153

Honor Code 170

III

Probate 211

Donor Organs 248

Death Certificate 257

Uranus 278

Lost Daddy 292

Sourland 314

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    a super anthology that focuses on the down side of relationships

    Sourland is a super anthology that focuses on the down side of relationships with the typical Joyce Carol Oates' themes of violence and loss leading to psychological traumas. This makes for a strong insightful collection with no losers. In "Pumpkin-Head", "Sourland," and "Probate" lonely susceptible widows having recently lost their protective mates and encounter an ugly new world order when males use them or the bureaucracy abuses them. In "Bonobo Momma", Ms. Oates turns upside down her usual lethal male when a rapacious former model is the nasty player. In haunting "Daddy Lost", mommy puts people to sleep at the medical clinic while daddy stays home after being downsized to watch over frightened little Tod. In "Honor Code", she knows her life is before and after cousin Sonny or more descriptive before and after manslaughter. Though printed in a variety of magazines in similar form, with these sixteen short stories, Ms. Oates provides a profound look at the dark side of relationships with beasts feasting and "Beating" on the vulnerable.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2011

    Absolutely awful.

    These stories all seem like opening a book and reading a few pages. The words are there, there are some feelings conveys.. briefly? With no substance or anything else behind it.

    It was really terrible .I forced myself through it in hopes the stroies would tell any sort of story.

    They don't. I was very dissapointed by this rating.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 3, 2014

    Suggest only this years revews kept on any book listed

    On special lists like this and others so we can also be spared dear harriet h though of course with a hh have no need to read the book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted December 16, 2011

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    Posted November 14, 2010

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