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Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong…
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Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Showing 4 of 4
The individual stories were well written, but "The Execution" was read a little too forcefully (each short story had a different narrator) and spoiled the, otherwise, promising piece. Overall, these were brilliantly composed and read with perfected interpretation. ( )
  BALE | Mar 11, 2014 |
Wow. Joyce doesn't fail to deliver on these four gems. NOT for the faint at heart, the stories do become progressively harsh, I found myself reading more slowly as the I went from story to story. I repeat - not for the faint at heart, I won't be passing this one along because I don't want to be held responsible. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Sep 19, 2013 |
An excellent collection of short stories that really pulled on me emotionally! I would give this 5 stars, but I didn't think the first three stories "paid off" for me. I loved how they built in suspense and drama, but the ends left me wanting. The fourth story, "The Flatbed" was wonderful, and I would have behaved exactly as N. did! Interesting to me is that two of these stories have a female character missing an eye - or do they? Read this book! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Sep 10, 2013 |
A prolific writer, her fans will love this latest work. Her style of writing uses no contrivances to make her point. The plots are simple, but they take the imagination places that one does not see coming, that one does not expect. Oates des not exaggerate ideas to grab your interest, she merely weaves a tale that, while plausible, is also almost unbearable, bordering on revolting and reprehensible sometimes, and yet, she makes it possible to read the stories without getting up and tossing the book in disgust.
The four novellas are related in a spare prose that leaves nothing to the imagination and yet takes creativity to its limits with each story getting more and more grotesque and bizarre, yet each one is, sadly, in the realm of possibility. Simply using her gift, her ability to mold language into the shape she desires, she has constructed four short works about dysfunctional relationships and dysfunctional people, who are sometimes products of their environments, their relationships and even sometimes, simply products of their own evil nature. It is about the inability of people to either communicate accurately or to comprehend what someone is really communicating to them. They put a spin on things that puts them in the best light, rather than the harsh light of reality. They live in a world of ambiguity, fantasy, rather than clarity. Are they sane or insane? Are they simply unhappy, lost souls, who are products of their environments, innocent, in the end, of all wrongdoing and inappropriate thought? Are things what they actually seem to be? Can the characters trust what they see, or more accurately, what they think they see and surmise about each other? Is what appears to be the truth actually the truth or just perception?
Oates spotlights the inability of people to deal directly with issues, the tendency to run from the truth and try to hide from it or hide it from the outside world. The stories are all about relationships and they question which of the partners is the more “broken” in each of the relationships. Sometimes, both are broken beyond repair. Sometimes it is difficult to tell who has lost touch and who is living in reality. However, all of the stories are about diabolical desires for someone’s deep discomfort or ultimate demise. In all of the stories, the need to have authority is key, the men believe themselves to be the stronger, the more righteous, and the one that should be in charge, with or without fact-based reasons. This latest book gets its title from the first of its four novellas, actually, the one that is least horrific. With each novella, the malevolence grows.
In “Evil Eye”, it is easy to conceive of the relationship between Marianna and her three decades younger husband, Austin. She is an insecure young woman, saddened and deeply troubled by the loss of her parents and is having difficulty coping. He is a man, well-known, worldly and very capable in public life, who needs to be adored, and she fits the bill. He seems to be very authoritarian. Unfortunately, as their relationship grows, so does her discomfort with him. The tale leaves the reader with the distinct question in their mind about who is losing their sanity, Marianna or her husband? Whose imagination and personality is running wild and out of hand? Is the husband the great manipulator she believes or is her mind perceiving things that are pure fantasy?
“So Near, Anytime, Always”, begins with another seemingly innocent and insecure young, woman. Lizbeth meets Desmond at the public library. He is handsome, well dressed and seems older and wiser than she. She has never had a relationship or a boyfriend, and she is so flattered when he waits outside the library for her that she pursues a friendship with him, which as it develops, veers into dangerous territory that she feels she cannot admit to herself or her family. Des appears to be from an upper class family of good background, but is kind of secretive and controlling. What does he really feel for her, she wonders, as he begins to appear more and more in the shadows, even as she wants to distance herself from him? What kind of person is he, really? Will she escape from his hold on her or will he stay with her in her memory, forever altering the way she lives her life?
“The Execution” is about a terribly maladjusted young adult, emotionally and mentally disturbed his whole life, coddled by a too liberal system that tries to understand and explain away the behavior rather than comprehend the nature of the mental illness, rather than facing it, instead running away, hiding from it until the world runs headlong into a possibly preventable tragic event which exhibits the results of their stupidity, when he goes mad and commits a heinous crime! This story is really about madness, about viewing the world through a false lens and interpreting events incorrectly because of an inability to process information properly. It too, is about the madness in men, their frailty and foolishness, their need for control, their need to be right, an inability to see their own faults and wrong doing. It is also about the unrealistic, weak behavior of some women, who show no common sense, who keep secrets when they should share their lives openly in order to protect someone undeserved and be maternal in the face of danger, and instead, in trying to avoid the consequences of disclosure, they later suffer them. I was left wondering if Bart Hansen was stuck in an Oedipal conflict, competing with his father for authority and control, and losing in that effort, also losing his hold on reality?
In the fourth and final novella, “The Flatbed” we meet a young woman, Cielle, (Cecilia) imagining someone referred to as “G”, chained to a flatbed truck, on his way to the slaughterhouse. She wonders if the man knows that he is destined to die? She is in a relationship with a man who is her superior (as in all the other novellas, the woman is weaker), though not her boss, referred to as “N”. They work together. She thinks she loves this man, years older than she, and he loves her. She, however, is frigid and trembles, shivers, shakes and cannot consummate the act of lovemaking or even tolerate an internal exam. He, in his love and devotion to her insists that she tells him her secret, what is terrifying her, what is holding her back from being in a normal relationship? He is kind to her, tries to be patient and understanding, but he says he must know her secret, but can she tell? She has never told anyone that something shameful happened to her as a child, something that she is so ashamed of it prevents her from being in a healthy relationship or even to have a complete physical exam with a doctor. In the end, Cecelia and “N”, now have a different secret that they can never tell.
Evil Eye, Joyce Carol Oates
A prolific writer, her fans will love this latest work. Her style of writing uses no contrivances to make her point. The plots are simple, but they take the imagination places that one does not see coming, that one does not expect. Oates des not exaggerate ideas to grab your interest, she merely weaves a tale that, while plausible, is also almost unbearable, bordering on revolting and reprehensible sometimes, and yet, she makes it possible to read the stories without getting up and tossing the book in disgust.
The four novellas are related in a spare prose that leaves nothing to the imagination and yet takes creativity to its limits with each story getting more and more grotesque and bizarre, yet each one is, sadly, in the realm of possibility. Simply using her gift, her ability to mold language into the shape she desires, she has constructed four short works about dysfunctional relationships and dysfunctional people, who are sometimes products of their environments, their relationships and even sometimes, simply products of their own evil nature. It is about the inability of people to either communicate accurately or to comprehend what someone is really communicating to them. They put a spin on things that puts them in the best light, rather than the harsh light of reality. They live in a world of ambiguity, fantasy, rather than clarity. Are they sane or insane? Are they simply unhappy, lost souls, who are products of their environments, innocent, in the end, of all wrongdoing and inappropriate thought? Are things what they actually seem to be? Can the characters trust what they see, or more accurately, what they think they see and surmise about each other? Is what appears to be the truth actually the truth or just perception?
Oates spotlights the inability of people to deal directly with issues, the tendency to run from the truth and try to hide from it or hide it from the outside world. The stories are all about relationships and they question which of the partners is the more “broken” in each of the relationships. Sometimes, both are broken beyond repair. Sometimes it is difficult to tell who has lost touch and who is living in reality. However, all of the stories are about diabolical desires for someone’s deep discomfort or ultimate demise. In all of the stories, the need to have authority is key, the men believe themselves to be the stronger, the more righteous, and the one that should be in charge, with or without fact-based reasons. This latest book gets its title from the first of its four novellas, actually, the one that is least horrific. With each novella, the malevolence grows.
In “Evil Eye”, it is easy to conceive of the relationship between Marianna and her three decades younger husband, Austin. She is an insecure young woman, saddened and deeply troubled by the loss of her parents and is having difficulty coping. He is a man, well-known, worldly and very capable in public life, who needs to be adored, and she fits the bill. He seems to be very authoritarian. Unfortunately, as their relationship grows, so does her discomfort with him. The tale leaves the reader with the distinct question in their mind about who is losing their sanity, Marianna or her husband? Whose imagination and personality is running wild and out of hand? Is the husband the great manipulator she believes or is her mind perceiving things that are pure fantasy?
“So Near, Anytime, Always”, begins with another seemingly innocent and insecure young, woman. Lizbeth meets Desmond at the public library. He is handsome, well dressed and seems older and wiser than she. She has never had a relationship or a boyfriend, and she is so flattered when he waits outside the library for her that she pursues a friendship with him, which as it develops, veers into dangerous territory that she feels she cannot admit to herself or her family. Des appears to be from an upper class family of good background, but is kind of secretive and controlling. What does he really feel for her, she wonders, as he begins to appear more and more in the shadows, even as she wants to distance herself from him? What kind of person is he, really? Will she escape from his hold on her or will he stay with her in her memory, forever altering the way she lives her life?
“The Execution” is about a terribly maladjusted young adult, emotionally and mentally disturbed his whole life, coddled by a too liberal system that tries to understand and explain away the behavior rather than comprehend the nature of the mental illness, rather than facing it, instead running away, hiding from it until the world runs headlong into a possibly preventable tragic event which exhibits the results of their stupidity, when he goes mad and commits a heinous crime! This story is really about madness, about viewing the world through a false lens and interpreting events incorrectly because of an inability to process information properly. It too, is about the madness in men, their frailty and foolishness, their need for control, their need to be right, an inability to see their own faults and wrong doing. It is also about the unrealistic, weak behavior of some women, who show no common sense, who keep secrets when they should share their lives openly in order to protect someone undeserved and be maternal in the face of danger, and instead, in trying to avoid the consequences of disclosure, they later suffer them. I was left wondering if Bart Hansen was stuck in an Oedipal conflict, competing with his father for authority and control, and losing in that effort, also losing his hold on reality?
In the fourth and final novella, “The Flatbed” we meet a young woman, Cielle, (Cecilia) imagining someone referred to as “G”, chained to a flatbed truck, on his way to the slaughterhouse. She wonders if the man knows that he is destined to die? She is in a relationship with a man who is her superior (as in all the other novellas, the woman is weaker), though not her boss, referred to as “N”. They work together. She thinks she loves this man, years older than she, and he loves her. She, however, is frigid and trembles, shivers, shakes and cannot consummate the act of lovemaking or even tolerate an internal exam. He, in his love and devotion to her insists that she tells him her secret, what is terrifying her, what is holding her back from being in a normal relationship? He is kind to her, tries to be patient and understanding, but he says he must know her secret, but can she tell? She has never told anyone that something shameful happened to her as a child, something that she is so ashamed of it prevents her from being in a healthy relationship or even to have a complete physical exam with a doctor. In the end, Cecelia and “N”, now have a different secret that they can never tell.
This author is a genius at creating mystery and suspense in somewhat “unbelievable” narratives, that incredibly, become believable narratives. The prose is simple, readable and magnetic. It almost forcibly grips and captures the reader's complete attention and imagination.
In the end, all of the stories are about destructive behavior, violent behavior or thoughts, violence which, although it begins in fantasy, often becomes reality, violence that if the symptoms of these dysfunctional people were recognized and dealt with more realistically, in a more grounded, sensible way, treating them rather than excusing them, might never have occurred and the characters might just have gone on to lead happy, successful and fruitful lives. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Aug 4, 2013 |
Showing 4 of 4
If any explanation exists for why and how love goes wrong, Oates implies that it lies in the fragility of our sense of self. It is the lack of a secure identity, the belief that one is “worthless” without love, that allows for others’ appropriative manipulation and haunting. The women remain in thrall to their lovers because they think, like Mariana, “without this man, I am nothing,” or take pride that their abuser “singled [them] out,” or feel, like LizBeth, even when faced with the reality of her boyfriend’s malevolence: “He loved me — he would not have hurt me.”
added by ozzer | editBoston Globe, Priscilla Gilman (Aug 31, 2013)
 
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In "Evil Eye," we meet Mariana, the young fourth wife of a prominent intellectual. When her husband's brazen first wife visits one night, Mariana learns a terrible secret that could be a harbinger of doom for her marriage and very soul. In "So Near, Anytime, Always," shy teenager Lizbeth meets Desmond, a charming boy who offers this introverted girl the first sparks of young romance. Yet just as their relationship begins to blossom, Lizbeth realizes that beneath Desmond's perfect facade lies a dark soul that could wreak havoc on Lizbeth and her loved ones. In "The Execution," spoiled college student Bart Hansen has planned the perfect, brutal crime to get back at his parents for their years of condescension. Yet what he didn't plan for is a mother whose love is more resilient than he could have ever imagined, who threatens to derail his carefully laid-out plans. And in "The Flat-Bed," childhood trauma has prevented Cecelia from enjoying the pleasures of physical intimacy with a man, but when she finally meets the love of her life, Cecelia realizes that finding intimacy will mean coming face-to-face with the despicable man from her past who robbed her of her innocence years ago.--From publisher's description.… (more)

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