I LOCK MY DOOR UPON MYSELF by Joyce Carol Oates
Kirkus Star

I LOCK MY DOOR UPON MYSELF

A Novella
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Inspired by a painting of the same title by Belgian artist Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)--and the first in a series of such art-inspired fictions planned by Ecco--Oates's slim (112-page) new novella tells of an interracial love affair in early 20th-century rural New York--and its mysterious, tragic consequences. Edith Honeystone's mother died shortly after the girl's birth in 1890, but not before she nicknamed the red-haired infant "Calla"--a name the child clings to as she grows into a neglected, half-wild teen-ager with no discernible future. When George Freilicht, an unprepossessing farmer, foolishly finds the girl's smile intriguing, her relatives hastily marry her off. Bewildered, Calla moves about her unloved husband's property like a sleepwalker, taking refuge in solitary flights into the woods. Meanwhile, Calla manages to bear George two children (whom she generally ignores thereafter) before she encounters a kindred spirit in Tyrell Thompson, a black water, dowser. Her ensuing obsession with the itinerant worker causes a storm of gossip, virtually destroys the Freilicht family name, and breaks the spirit of Calla's husband. Still, the lovers stubbornly cling to one another until the townfolk have created an entire myth from the seeds of their passion: Edith is pregnant, people say; the black man is seven feet tall; Edith gave birth to a tainted baby and the family drowned it in the well. . . Such tales can end only in tragedy. Answering her lover's challenge, Calla accompanies him in a rowboat to the middle of the Chautauqua River, where the two drift toward dangerous Tintern Falls and their separate destinies while gazing steadily into each other's eyes. Such people "made gestures that lasted for life," reflects Calla's granddaughter, who narrates this account while marveling that that wild woman's blood courses through her own, apparently tamer, veins. Oates provides Khnopff's haunting work of art, to be featured on the cover, with an eloquent voice in this breathless, shadowy tale.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0865381089
Page count: 108pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1990




MORE BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

FictionBEAUTIFUL DAYS by Joyce Carol Oates
by Joyce Carol Oates
FictionA BOOK OF AMERICAN MARTYRS by Joyce Carol Oates
by Joyce Carol Oates