The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares

( 13 )

Overview

"The Corn Maiden" is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet, but somewhat slow, eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and panics, frantically knocking on the doors of her neighbors. She finally calls the police, who want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 o’clock.

Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at her school with no alibi for the time of the abduction. Obvious clues—perhaps too obvious—point...

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The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares

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Overview

"The Corn Maiden" is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet, but somewhat slow, eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and panics, frantically knocking on the doors of her neighbors. She finally calls the police, who want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 o’clock.

Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at her school with no alibi for the time of the abduction. Obvious clues—perhaps too obvious—point directly to him. Unsuspected is Judah (born Judith), an older girl from the same school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, a girl sacrificed to ensure a good crop.

The trusting Marissa happily went to a secluded basement with the older girls, pleased to be included, and is convinced that the world has ended and that they are the last survivors. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, she grows weaker on a sparse diet as Judah prepares her for sacrifice.

The seemingly inevitable fate of Marissa becomes ever more terrifying as Judah relishes her power, leading to unbearable tension with a shocking conclusion.

“Helping Hands,” published here for the first time, begins with an apparently optimistic line: “He came into her life when it had seemed to her that her life was finished.”

A lonely woman meets a man in the unlikely clutter of a dingy charity shop and extends friendliness, which soon turns to quiet and unacknowledged desire. With the mind-set of a victim, struggling to overcome her shyness and fears, she has no idea what kinds of doors she may be opening.

The powerful stories in this extraordinary collection further enhance Joyce Carol Oates’s standing as one of the world’s greatest writers of suspense.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The seven stories in this stellar collection from the prolific Oates (Give Me Your Heart) may prompt the reader to turn on all the lights or jump at imagined noises. In the excruciating title tale, a novella subtitled “A Love Story,” an adolescent girl leads two of her friends in the kidnapping of 11-year old Marissa Bantry to enact the ritual sacrifice of the Corn Maiden as performed by the Onigara Indians. Children or childhood traumas play significant roles in “Beersheba,” in which a man’s past catches up to him, and “Nobody Knows My Name,” in which the birth of a sibling turns nine-year-old Jessica’s world upside down. Twins figure in both the eerie “Fossil-Figures” and the harrowing “Death-Cup” with its sly allusions to Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson.” In “A Hole in the Head,” a plastic surgeon succumbs to a patient’s request for an unusual operation with unexpected results. This volume burnishes Oates’s reputation as a master of psychological dread. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Oates's latest collection features six previously published stories and the debut of a new tale, "Helping Hands." The title novella revolves around the kidnapping of 11-year-old Marissa by her classmates. In chilling detail, Oates examines the mindset of not only Marissa's single mother, who was out late with a man, but also the kidnapping's mastermind, who is obsessed with the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden in which a young girl is sacrificed to ensure a good crop, and the teacher who is implicated in Marissa's disappearance. Two stories, "The Death Cup" and "Fossil Figures," involve twin brothers and how their lives are inextricably linked. VERDICT Psychologically compelling and disturbing, this volume is a strong addition to Oates's vast body of work. Short story readers and Oates fans will enjoy it. [See Prepub Alert, 5/9/11.]—Kristen Stewart, Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., Pearland, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Seven nightmarish tales written over a 15-year period. The first and longest story is the title novella, about Jude Trahern, a precocious and evil eighth-grader who abducts a fellow classmate, Marissa, to enact a ritual human sacrifice. Brilliant, charismatic and severely disturbed, Jude chooses Marissa because of the latter's status as an outsider, both new to the school and set apart by her intellectual slowness. Jude enlists two of her friends in the elaborately planned ceremony, but their enthusiasm begins to wane as things start to get spookier and it becomes clear that Jude is serious about following through on the ritual. Meanwhile, Marissa's mother, Leah, becomes frantic about her missing daughter and starts to believe in the guilt of Mikal Zallman, a part-time employee at the school whom Jude has cleverly implicated. The story ends on a jarring and somewhat surreal note as Leah and Mikal develop a romantic attachment. Throughout this collection Oates is fascinated by the idea of doubling, for example in "Death-Cup," in which Lyle King tries to poison his evil twin Alastor with Amanita mushroom soup. Alastor is the "evil" brother, successful on the outside but unscrupulous within, and Lyle finds out that ultimately they can never be separated. (It's no coincidence that Lyle is designing a new edition, "with hand-sewn pages and letterpress printing," of Poe's "William Wilson.") Similarly, in "Fossil-Figures," brothers Edgar and Edward Waldman mirror opposing sides of the self, while in the masterful "Beersheba" womanizer Brad gets his comeuppance at the hands of Stacy Lynn, who at first comes on to him seductively and then exacts a terrible revenge. While the shadows of Poe and Hitchcock loom over these tales, it's clear that Oates herself is a master at creeping out her readers.
From the Publisher
“This chilling audio edition of the latest collection offers up a selection of seven dark and psychologically thrilling tales.”
Publishers Weekly

“A fine account makes for a vivid set of tales recommended for any mystery audio collection.”
The Bookwatch

The Bookwatch
“Psychologically compelling and disturbing, this volume is a strong addition to Oates’s vast body of work.”
Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802126023
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,009,041
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates
In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, JOYCE CAROL OATES is the author of a number of works of award-winning gothic fiction. In 1994, Oates received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

CHRISTINE WILLIAMS mesmerized audiences as a lead actor for the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 8 years, and she has also sung with the Rogue Opera. She currently teaches singing to actors and acting to singers at SOU, and narrates fiction and nonfiction audiobooks, with a special fondness for character work. On weekends, she loves to hike to mountaintops, and, if it gets too cold, she can make fire with sticks.

ADAM VERNER is a voice over artist and actor. He has worked extensively on stage and screen and narrated a diverse array of audiobooks, from fiction and fantasy to nonfiction self-help and history. He’s been involved in the world of audiobooks since 1980 when his father recorded Golden Books for him to listen to. Adam holds his MFA in acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and his commercial voice over clients include Gillette, Kmart, McDonalds, Harley Davidson, Wrigley, Keystone Beer, and many others. If he could be any animal in the world it would definitely be an orangutan.

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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
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Must Read! Will Scare You!

    Joyce Carol Oates hardly needs an introduction, so I've left that off in this review. It continues to amaze me that she is so prolific an author, so "current" and so singluar at the same time, while she is over 71 year old. Whether she's writing the somber story of her own widowhood, the story of a family in Niagra Falls during Love Canal days, or the story of a family torn apart by rape, Ms Oates is mesmerizing. She can also scare the life out of you! This collection of stories is well-named; they are your worst nightmares.

    Just in time for Halloween, but even more so, "The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" is a book you can keep for those weekends when you have friends up: great food is digesting, you're drinking a
    last crystal goblet of wine and you just want a bit of quiet entertainment...a sort of send-off to bed...a reading, a story to remember. This quiet weekend would best be spent in up-state NY, in the Catskills, possibly in a lodge you've all leased for the weekend. Nice...friends, the Fall, wine, an old lodge and Joyce Carol Oates. Run for your bed and pull the covers over your head!!

    "The Corn Maiden," the title story of this collection is creepy. The girls perpetrating unspeakable rituals upon their "corn maiden" are creepy and vile. Jude, the primary perpetrator and leader of her little band of weirdos, is suburban-insane and twisted like few other early teens you'll ever meet. Besides all of this, and mingled with the strange ritualistic purpose for their kidnapping poor, defenseless Marissa of the corn-silk hair, are the frightening unknowns that Ms Oates serves up to us: how kids today live not knowing if they're going to survive tomorrow because of nuclear threats, not knowing if parents will be there for them, not knowing why they've been abandoned, not knowing if food is safe, not knowing if their teacher is a molester, and so on. It's a story about the horrors our children face in their nightmares. In the reading, you'll discover what else Marissa represents; that, too, is a horror, it's all disturbing. It's all good for us to think about.

    Others of the stories also confront the nightmares of disassociation, displacement and dysfunction in families, coupled with the distortions of nature and mind. We know that often the scariest tales are the ones closest to being true or plausible. Not to mention that often those stories happen in the rural places close to home. Joyce Carol Oates was born and raised in up-state NY...think of what Stephen King does for Maine.

    Do you believe a cat can take the breath away; smother a baby? Just because a child imagines she experienced abuse, does that make it true?

    All I can tell you is that this book is not for the faint of heart. Joyce Carol Oates is a seriously great author no matter what she chooses to write. You can count on this being an extraordinarily good book of nightmarish tales on many levels.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Pretty good, but bad editing.

    This was a fairly good read if you can look past the REALLY bad editing on the Nook version. Also most of the stories have the same basic plot, but different twists. By the end of the book I was kind of over it all. Joyce is a really imaginative writer but this collection really suffered from the editing problems.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2012

    Entertaining, but....

    I enjoyed the stories in this collection, but the typos and errors in my digital copy really made me want to stop reading. It really irks me when I spend as much as I would on an actual book and no one has taken the time to make sure the text is clean.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This was my first time reading anything by this author. I can h

    This was my first time reading anything by this author. I can honestly say I won't be purchasing anything from her in the future and was quite glad it was a library book. It was just interesting enough to keep reading but not enough to choose to do it again.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    A great read

    Stories aren't "scary", but they are creepy. Probably creepier because they are very realistic. Author seems to understand how the darker parts of the human brain can work and what they can lead to, very dark and very satisfying!

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great stories..

    "The Corn Maiden" was the best tale in this collection. It was great watching everything unravel. The other stories were good, especially the one involving the thrift store. I highly recommend this, and I don't like short stories!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Creepy and Disturbing

    Joyce Carol Oates never disappoints...these stories are creepy and disturbing, but also very believable....

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

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Just didn't captivate me

    I got through the first story which I thought was not too bad. But it didn't scare me. A bit freaky, but nothing that left me shaking. As I started to read the next "nightmare" it was so unrealistic to me. I just could not get into it! I ended up just no finishing the novel after that, which is rare for me. I regret buying this book on my nook since I can't return it. Personally, I thought Afraid by Jack Kilborn was a better read. (however though, his book was more of a suspense)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted May 18, 2012

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    Posted December 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

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