Saturday, March 1, 2014

Another author I cannot read

Joyce Carol Oates. The woman is one of the most prolific American authors around. She's published a gazillion short stories, been featured on Oprah's Book Club, and received multiple awards. I'm not sure how I had managed to avoid knowingly reading anything by her until this week, but I had. So the last time I was at the library I decided it was time to remedy that deficiency. I checked out a recent collection of her short stories, Dear Husband.

Okay. She can write. She is really good with a pen, a master wordsmith. But depressing? Words fail me. I don't expect every book I read to be super upbeat or have a formulaic happy ending. After all, I like Russian novels. I read the short stories in The New Yorker. I even have a subscription to The Sun. But there are limits. The characters in the stories in Dear Husband don't lead lives of quiet desperation. They lead lives of such total despair that the reader finds herself wanting to join them in a warm bath while chugging a whole lot of Xanax and Jack Daniels with a nice old-fashioned cut-throat razor on the side.

You know, this baffles me. "This" being the gazillion publications. If Dear Husband is typical Joyce Carol Oates, why on earth would any reader ever buy more than one of her books? Do people think that if a book makes them feel horrible it is somehow great literature? Do they view reading as punishment, some sort of penance they endure to prove to themselves they're smart? Are they trying to impress the librarian or the Barnes and Noble cashiers when they pick up something by Joyce Carol Oates instead of Janet Evanovich? It's a mystery.

Okay. It's time to go read something light and escapist to purge the memory the Oates book. Maybe I'll re-read Crime and Punishment. After reading Oates, Dostoevsky will seem like P. G. Wodehouse in comparison.

1 comment:

  1. Oates not my favorite, but neither are the Russians. Sure hope I can get this to show up.


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