I take Joyce Carol Oates for granted at this point. Every year, she churns out another book or two — ones that get good reviews — but for some reason, I don’t usually pay much attention to them. I don’t know why – I absolutely loved the one Oates book I actually read: Black Water (the Chappaquiddick story told from the point of view of Mary Jo Kopechne, the woman in the car with Ted Kennedy). I thought it was beautifully written, with descriptions that were so accurate and well-written that they took my breath away. (No pun intended.) I think I also started We Were the Mulvaneys once as well, but never picked it up again. Oates has tried out a lot of genres at this point: according to The Washington Post, “[w]hat she’ll race to serve up next is anybody’s guess. Gothics, grotesqueries, tales-told-in-real-time — she’s tried them all. Experimentation — almost to the point of sacrificing her own readers — is the candle Oates burns at both ends.”
However, I just read a short New York Times Book Review review of one of Oates’s latest books (she actually publishes between 2-3 a year): Missing Mom, which came out in October 2005 and is now out in paperback. As usual, the review is quite positive:
Oates’s arresting novel peers into the void left by the murder of an ordinary woman, Gwen Eaton, a 56-yearold housewife in Mount Ephraim, N.Y. (also the setting for 1996’s “We Were the Mulvaneys”). The novel chronicles the year following Gwen’s death, as her wayward daughter, Nikki, slowly rediscovers her mother and learns that things were not quite what they had seemed on the surface. “Oates’s grip on crime, violence and the long-buried is sure,” Stacey D’Erasmo wrote here, “but ‘Missing Mom’ is actually more disturbing in its relentless, dead-on accretion of smalltime, small-town, middle-class details.”
I think I will read this one. I fipped through it in the bookstore yesterday and it looks really good.
Any Joyce Carol Oates afficionados out there? What do you recommend?
Finally, a few weeks ago, I blogged about a book called Jump at the Sun, by Kim McLarin. She had an essay on interracial relationships in last Sunday’s (9/3) New York Times Styles section, in the “Modern Love” column. [Subscription may be required.]