WHERE IS HERE? by Joyce Carol Oates


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Fragments of whispered lust and longing fade in and out like voices on a shortwave radio in Oates' newest collection of stories, most published previously (Michigan Quarterly, Omni, The Massachusetts Review, etc.) and some less than a page long. The result is a book whose cumulative effect proves more riveting than its parts as Oates, in typical fashion, cuts to the essential emotion and lets the details fall to the side. In "Angry," a young man conceives a passion for a woman he observes speaking to a lover in anger; in "From the Life Of...," a world-weary writer mechanically seduces a harpist in an anonymous hotel; in "Shot," a young girl fails to rescue an abused pet dog chained up on the wrong side of town; and in "Love, Forever," a woman murders her children after she's rejected by the man she loves. What proves most striking about each of these tales is the enormous amount of drama, sensation, and psychological insight Oates manages to convey in very few pages. While the briefest among the 34 remain too fragmentary to be engaging, it takes only two or three pages for Oates's prose to reach a captivating energy: as in the leisurely, wistful meditations of those close to death (the writer in "From the Life Of..."; a hairdresser's elderly client in "Beauty Salon"), and in the accounts of haunting, frightening encounters with strangers ("Running"; "Where Is Here?"). Throughout, Oates confidently experiments with content and style, breaking rules whenever she feels like it. Overall: an enthralling, varied, and fascinating collection.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-88001-283-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1992


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