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Faithless: Tales of Transgression by Joyce…

Faithless: Tales of Transgression

by Joyce Carol Oates

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3.5 stars really. It's hard to rate a book of short stories. ( )
  rainidontmind | Mar 14, 2014 |
Overall, this was a great collection of stories - as always with collections, I liked some more than others. The stories I liked the best in this collection almost always involved a woman looking back on her past, telling a story and discovering or rediscovering something about her past or her family's past. These stories were quietly unsettling and somewhat hazy, often involving secrets or acts whose meaning the story's main character could not or would not comprehend. Among my favorites: "Faithless," in which a woman uncovers the truth about her mother and father's relationship; "The Scarf," in which a woman remembers buying a gift as a child for her now aged mother; and "What Then, My Life?", in which a woman tries to remember time spent on her grandparents' farm. All of these descriptions of course are stripped of the shocking violence and horribleness that appears in most Oates stories, to avoid spoilers. Less successful for me were the many stories about wronged lovers taking revenge and the stories that seemed "ripped from the headlines" about school violence.

It goes without saying that Oates is impressively prolific, but what's also amazing is her ability to write in so many different registers and prose styles while still remaining clearly herself. I read the ebook version, which also included an interview with the author. Most of the questions were quite silly, but I did enjoy learning about how Oates almost always "curates" her short story collections around a theme and arranges them so that as the reader progesses through the book, the reader moves from more concrete stories to more abstract stories with a greater sense of narrative instability. That progression was definitely clear toward the final stories. ( )
1 vote fannyprice | Feb 1, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060933577, Paperback)

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 Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:06 -0400)

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Collection of 21 stories. As the subtitle suggests, the book's preoccupation is sin, but otherwise the stories are richly various.

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