In this gathering of 24 stories by Joyce Carol Oates, the mysterious private lives of individuals are explored with vivid, unsparing precision and sympathy. In "Faithless", two adult sisters recall their mother's disappearance when they were children; in "Ugly Girl", a bitterly angry young woman defines herself as "ugly" as a way of making herself invulnerable to hurt, and in so doing hurts others; in "Lover", a beautiful young woman locked into an obsessive love affair seeks her revenge in a bizarre, violent manner; in "Gunlove", a woman in thrall to a powerful erotic fetishism recounts, in brief, deadpan vignettes, a history of her relations with firearms. These and the 19 other stories in Faithless provide startling and unexpected insights into the contemporary American psyche and the literary pleasures admirers of Oates's short fiction have come to expect.
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Penzler Pick, March 2001: I guess it's no secret that I regard Joyce Carol Oates as one of the great living American writers, both of mystery-crime-suspense fiction and of virtually every other form invented. I previously reviewed Blonde, which went on to be nominated for a National Book Award, and it's my joy to be able to recommend Faithless: Tales of Transgression, the stories within which are about as good as the short story gets. (Full disclosure here, with the admission that I might be a trifle prejudiced in favor of this volume. It is dedicated to Alice Turner, the former fiction editor of Playboy, and to me--largely, I reckon, because several of these stories were written especially for several anthologies of which I was the editor.)
There are 24 stories in this generous volume and while some inevitably linger longer in the memory than others, there is not a dull spot in its nearly 400 pages. The title story is a haunting tale of the disappearance of a woman as recalled by her two daughters, grown now. The ending is utterly expected but, nevertheless, comes as a shock. "The Vampire" is not at all a horror story, at least not in the sense that it involves in any way elements of the supernatural, but has a growing sense of pure terror as the reader comes to see the way in which one person can absorb all the life out of another.
In "The High School Sweetheart: A Mystery," a famous mystery writer reads a speech as he accepts the presidency of the most prestigious of all mystery organizations. The speech is delivered as a piece of fiction that appears to be a confession of a horrific crime committed during his teen years while besotted with a girl two years older than he. When the speech ends, the audience cannot imagine applauding because the story seems so true. Is it?
Once again, the incomparable Joyce Carol Oates has produced a compelling and important volume for the shelves of anyone who cares about distinguished suspense fiction. --Otto PenzlerAbout the Author:
Award-winning author, Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 and grew up in upstate New York.While a scholarship student at Syracuse University, she won the coveted Mademoiselle fiction contest. She graduated as valedictorian, then earned an M.A. at the University of Wisconsin. In 1968, she began teaching at the University of Windsor. In 1978, she moved to New Jersey to teach creative writing at Princeton University, where she is now the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.A prolific writer, Joyce Carol Oates has produced some of the most controversial, and lasting, fiction of our time. Her novel, them, set in racially volatile 1960s Detroit, won the 1970 National Book Award. Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart focused on an interracial teenage romance. Black Water, a narrative based on the Kennedy-Chappaquiddick scandal, garnered a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and her national bestseller Blonde, an epic work on American icon Marilyn Monroe, became a National Book Award Finalist. Although Joyce Carol Oates has called herself, "a serious writer, as distinct from entertainers or propagandists," her novels have enthralled a wide audience, and We Were the Mulvaneys earned the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
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