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Saturday, 19 December 2015

Still Sowing Wild 'Oates'!

Now aged 77, Joyce Carol Oates still writes with the terrific – and terrifying vigour of a young woman flowing in full spate.

Moreover, we must acknowledge that even as the prize-winning US storyteller and journalist continues to examine the same issues she’s scrutinised throughout her career, such topics have become more important than ever.

Four of the six tales in her latest short story collection are written in the first person and all look at the features of modern society we most despise and fear. But the worst is merely implied.

Is the ‘doll-master’ of the title story a child abductor and murderer? Is the father figure in Big Momma an especially grisly serial killer?  May it be argued, as in Equatorial, that attempts to eradicate an introduced sub-species on to the Galapagos are comparable to Nazi eugenics? Certainly, reading passages in that tale are akin to looking into the well at Israel’s Holocaust Museum Hall of Names.  

But as Oates’s prodigious output continues unabated, the reader must ask if she is beginning to repeat herself.  Are The Doll-Master, Big Momma and Gun Accident: An Investigation polished variations on the theme of her most noted short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? This is the piece that she dedicated to singer-song writer Bob Dylan and wrote after first hearing It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.  That was exactly a half-century ago. Is it time to look at something else?

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror will be published by Grove Atlantic on May 03 2016 @ $18.24 (£12.25; NIS 71.07 approx)

© Natalie Wood (19 December 2015)

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