Black Water

Black Water

by Joyce Carol Oates


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Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old "good girl" when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to this older man, this hero, this soon-to-be-lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bight and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command - at a party that takes on the quality of a surreal nightmare; in a tragic care ride that we hope against hope will not end as we know it must end. One of the acknowleged masters of American fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has written a bold tour de force that parts the black water to reveal the profoundest depths of human truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780792714224
Publisher: AudioGO
Publication date: 01/28/1993
Pages: 165
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)

About the Author

In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, including We Were the Mulvaneys, A Book of American Martyrs, Black Water, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart, and Broke Heart Blues, Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of works of gothic fiction including Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, a World Fantasy Award nominee; and Zombie, winner of the 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.


Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

June 16, 1938

Place of Birth:

Lockport, New York


B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A powerfully imagined novel … it continues to haunt us.”
— New York Times Book Review

“Intense … signals another frontier opened with the sword of a master storyteller.”
Chicago Tribune

“Its power of evocation is remarkable.”
The New Yorker

Customer Reviews

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Black Water 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Ellouise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a breath taking book from the point of view of the girl - Kelly Kelleher - and her death in a wild ride with a senator
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In July of 1969, a car drove off a bridge into the tidal waters of Chappaquiddick in Massachusetts--taking the life of Mary Jo Kopechne and with it the presidential aspirations of Senator Ted Kennedy. A blurb on the back of Black Water from the Los Angeles Times calls the book "the ballad of Chappaquiddick" and even though the internal chronology places this after 1990, in Maine not Massachusetts, the young woman involved is named "Kelly Kelleher" and the driver involved is only called "the Senator" this is obviously a roman à clef based on that incident. So you have a tragic event with lots of resonance for Americans and by a celebrated author who has won the National Book Award and been a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. So this book should be amazing--but I don't feel it is. I think this is just an author who is a mismatch for me stylistically. I had tried before this her We Were the Mulvaneys and found myself underwhelmed. This particular book left me decidedly unmoved and even feeling some distaste. I think a lot of that is because I could see the seams of her modernist techniques too well. There are chapters of less than 100 words, staccato sentences, sentences without punctuation, ones with unending lists, run-ons, constant looping back to moments during the accident between narrating events earlier in the day and in Kelly's life, and repeated phrases such as "Am I going to die? Like this?" and "And the black water filled her lungs." I recently read a book by Salman Rushdie using such modernist techniques and was charmed--it just worked. Here the literary techniques seemed stagey, and given the real life tragedy depicted within living memory that made this come across to me as exploitative and cheesy. Still, this might make a good introduction to Oates, to see if you might like her style. It's very short, only 154 pages and with a stripped down enough style you could read it in a couple of hours.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oates Novella is a chilling fictionalization of the Chappaquiddick incident where senator Ted Kennedy drove into the water and the woman he was with drown while he escaped. The main character, Kelly, flashes back and forth between her drive with the senator and her past during the story. Kelly is tragically insecure and lacks confidence and that's one of the factors that leads to her demise. The story is well-written and truly disturbing when you think about what's actually happening and how it mirrors the real life event.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oates writes in vivid, breathless prose that pushes the story forward but never digs very deep. The book as a whole seems more interested in fleeting impressions and sensations than the details of character or experience.
sunfi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, what an interesting read. I found myself rationalizing whether or not the end would turn out the way that I knew it would. I enjoyed the writers style, it took a couple chapters to get used to it and then I was hooked.
RobinDawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To be honest, I think I was a bit biased against Oates because she has been so very prolific, so when this was chosen by my book club I wasn't too happy.....but this book impressed me. Blackwater is a vivid re-imagining of Chappaquiddick ¿ told from the perspective of Kelly Kelleher (aka Mary Kopekne). The story starts dramatically with the car hitting the bridge and going into the black water. Her thoughts in the last minutes of her life range widely and rapidly and we learn about the party that night, meeting `the Senator¿, their exchange and decision to drive for the ferry. Technically, I think Oates gave herself quite a challenge, particularly as we all know how the story is going to end, but she is able to sustain an atmosphere of urgency and panic, and the language swirls and circles like the rising waters. I was engaged and involved to the grim end.
BrentD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, I'm really surprised that people liked this book. I (along with the rest of my class) was forced to read is my freshman year of college, and I thought it was the worst book I've ever read (an opinion supported by everyone I remember talking to from my class. My memory of it is so negative, that I tagged it with "Bad Book", and the stupid, overly repeated sentence "The black water filled her mouth and she died" has been painfully burned into my memory. It certainly could be better than I remember, but I'm not sure I want to subject myself to it again...
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Using the Ted Kennedy disaster of his real life abandonment of a young girl who drowed because of his recklessness, Joyce Carol Oates vividly weaves the tale from the point of view of the drowning character. As the black water rises and fills her lungs, the reader can almost gasp her last breath, taste the brackish, dark, murky madness as "the senator" flees leaving the helpless victim inside the ever rising water filled car.
eviexeris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Might be Oates' best novel, she works best at this length.
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is a fictionalised account of the Chappaquiddick incident, where a young woman dies in the car crashed by Ted Kennedy. The Kennedy character is only ever referred to as ¿The Senator¿ but there are other clues to his identity such as mentions of a brother, the thread of assassination and that he is known by a diminutive form of his full name. Some of the details of the event have been changed in the book (the time period is later, the location and girl¿s name changed) perhaps to avoid being sued, but it unmistakable as that event.The story is told from the point of view of the woman as she drowns. As the black water of the title comes into the car, we are privy to her thoughts about the events that led up to the accident and what she thinks is happening to her. It is often difficult to write about real life events, but here the author has created a simple but powerful book.I would not say that I enjoyed reading it because I found it harrowing, but I certainly admired and appreciated the writing and it has left a lasting impression on me.
TheTwoDs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A brief novel, a fictionalized take on the infamous Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident, Black Water is told entirely during the few minutes a drowning girl has to live. We know how it has to end, but the language is so intense it heightens the suspense. Beyond the basic plot, it's interesting to be inside the scene of wealth, particularly how much of a fuss the party and its preparations become for those hoping to impress and be impressed. Call it Drowning in Gatsby's World.
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Those who remember Ted Kennedy's real-life struggles will find Oates' book riveting.
corgidog2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chappaquidick, Mary Jo Kopechne, Senator Ted Kennedy, from the drowning person's point of view. Quick read. Interesting method, as always, with Oates.
CrookedBooks More than 1 year ago
If you don't understand why Joyce Carol Oates is a literary pillar of our times, then you obviously have not read "Black Water." Go, right now, run to your computer, sink your literature-impoverished fingertips into its keys. Now! Before it's too late! If you don't, then you only have yourself to blame, and, the haggard, wrinkled figures that you see in your final thoughts, just may be attending angels in disguise. There are great books and there are legendary books. The poetry of the inner world. If there is any one feature only great books lack, it is this one. The legendary book flows like black water, a rising river wrought of soul-stained ink, overflowing, flooding, off the pages and into your veins, and then all through your body, endowing your mind with a new set of eyes, your heart with fluttering wings, your soul with tangoing poetry, all riding the raging black river, seeking to flood your literary life with dizzying oxygen. Black Water. We are seized and yanked into the flood of a young woman's mind in the throes of an automobile accident, unnecessary, unexpected as death, her frailty, her fragility, her insecure passions, her desperate need for love and acceptance, her sensuality, her incredulity, her piteous hope, her clinging, final, muddy thoughts, her senseless tragedy, her whirling psyche, her dreams, her barrage of caressing memory, her ebullience of feeling, her tenacious stubborn final logic. Black Water. Joyce Carol Oates gives us a mosaic, vivid vision, a luxuriant, rare glimpse into what it was like to be Kelly Kelleher in a desperate last flickering moment of life, to be swallowed by the black water of well-disguised usury, to feel one's mind cling to the final bastions of life and hope and womanly need. Black Water. Why don't you see for yourself what a legendary author does with language. Read it or be forever impoverished. Yours in literature, J.G.C. Comment Comment | Permalink
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, Black Water is a novel about inevitability and doom. With each page, the atmosphere gets increasingly overwhelming, and moving. Beautifully written, JCO's novel depicts with vivid imagery and easy-going stream-of-consciousness the thoughts and memories of a young woman.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I completly disagree with many of the other reviews. JCO comes back to the same scene, adding more details each time, to make a point. Most of the things that happen to kelly during that scene are symbolic to her life, society, and what it was to be a women at the time. Though this novel is short, JCO uses her symbolic messages to help the reader understand the characters more. I would only sudjest this book if you are willing to look deeper within the text to find meaning and substance. Otherwise pick up a gossip girl, there is rarley any symbolism there, and is much easier to fidjure out the characters there than in a JCO novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oates creatively tries to bring the character's angst by returning to the scene again and again, but mistakedly repeats things over and over to the point of boredom. I couldn't wait to put this book down because I thought the organization was lacking in power. I think Oates was trying for 'power' by continually coming back to the drowning, but she loses the impact of this historic event by repeating herself rather than adding more to each of the victim's reminiscence. I became bored with it before reaching even the middle of the book. My mom let me in on the historical connection, otherwise, I would have put the book down much earlier, and I always finish a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
JCO brilliantly captures the frantic thoughts that must run through the mind of someone losing the battle against time. Fast-paced and emotional...well worth the read
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time when I was in the sixth grade. I was impressed by the author's almost incoherent style as it helps the reader to appreciate the state of mind of the main character. I was also intrigued by the descriptions of capital punishment. They are quite appropriate as Kelly is 'sentenced' to a horrific death by a well known politician. At the time, I considered this to be one of the best books I had ever read and hurried to tell my mother about it. Only then, did I learnd the real life tragedy that inspired the book. Nine years later, I still search for that book at every bookstore, every library. I've never forgotten it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was moderatley good, but not worth reading again. The way it's written is kind of strange, but that makes it better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed 'We were the mulvaneys' by JCO, but this book was by far the worst book I have ever read. The 150 ish pages were complete torture during the 24 hour period it took me to read it. I am not sure where she was going with this story, but it just said the same thing over and over and over and over and over again!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Repetition, and nothing more. This story could have been told in a few pages and in a much better way. Don't waste your time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was kind-of pointless unless that is you want to read the same thing over and over again. The way the book was written did not please my taste although Oats is a great author.