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Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
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Black Water

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
[Black Water] presents the life of a young woman as she re-experiences it in her dying moments. It's an interesting challenge for a writer. Kelly Kelleher is at an Independence Day party thrown by a friend, Buffy St. John, at Buffy's parents summer place on an island off the coast of Maine. A revered U.S. Senator appears as a surprise guest. Kelly is quite enthralled by him, and he seems to be taken with her. Though she's expecting to stay the night, The Senator, as he is referred to throughout the story, persuades her to take the ferry to the mainland with him. He has a room in a motel. Racing to the ferry, The Senator turns onto an unmarked gravel road, assuring Kelly it's a shortcut. But he's racing to the ferry, and he misjudges a turn, and their car plunges off a narrow bridge into a tidal channel.

You know the story, of course, because it's based on a 1969 accident in which a car driven by Senator Ted Kennedy plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, drowning his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne.

Rather than re-adjudicate that incident, author Joyce Carol Oates explores the thoughts of a young woman as she drowns. Her upbringing, her relationship with her parents (what will they think of her now?), her Catholic education, her jobs. Each vignette fades into her immediate peril: "As the black water rose around her, to fill her lungs." She's re-living her life, her friendship with Buffy, her past romances, her surprise that The Senator is attracted to her. As the car sinks into the stinking black water, Kelly tries to escape, grapples with The Senator as he too struggles to escape, then pleads to him to come back for her.

"She could hear him … somewhere above. The surface of the water was close above. There he moved cautiously in the shallows, he was diving, swimming to save her where she was trapped in the dark so she must guide him I'm here I'm here I'M HERE."

Excellent short book. It was a finalist for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize. I'll give it at least one thumb up.
  weird_O | Aug 4, 2016 |
Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates; (2 1/2*)

It took me a bit of time pondering this novella to bring myself to the point where I could put my thoughts & comments about it down on paper, so to speak.

I think Oates is a brilliant writer and I do believe that this book was written quite brilliantly. The prose is so very different from anything that I have ever read before. I even found the format & punctuation of the novella appropriate to the book & the story.

This slim volume, written in the voice & mind of a dead/dying girl, is based on the Chappaquiddick incident from 1969 involving Senator Ted Kennedy & his young colleague, Mary Jo Kopechne, who drowned on that night. It read a bit strange to me but I don't think that is due to the writing. I think it is due to the fact that I am a product of the sixties & recall the circumstances surrounding the real incident so well. I didn't realize this was what the book was about when I picked it up. I may not have read it had I known. But I am glad I read it.

However it did leave me feeling 'cold' just as the title suggests. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Jun 9, 2016 |
A thinly disguised fictional retelling of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in the car accident caused by Ted Kennedy. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Historical context makes this story interesting. Short story length would have gotten the point across however. ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
Black Water is a novelization of the Chappaquiddick incident, in which Senator Ted Kennedy drove into a pond and the young lady who was riding with him died. In the novel, The Senator is given no other name, and the whole event is shown through the eyes of his passenger (named Kelly in the book). The story is told through a series of flashbacks in Kelly’s mind while she is trapped in the car as it sinks.

The run-on sentence structure made the book a little hard to read, but I think it worked for conveying the thoughts of a woman who was in the process of slowly drowning. Also, Oates is viciously critical of every aspect of politics, so there’s something in the book to offend pretty much every group of people (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). I really liked all the underlying themes (the relative powerlessness of women in a male-dominated society, the empty gestures of politicians, to name a few). ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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The rented Toyota, driven with such impatient exuberance by The Senator, was speeding along the unpaved unnamed road, taking the turns in giddy, skidding slides, and then, with no warning, somehow the car had gone off the road and had overturned in black rushing water, listing to its passenger's side, rapidly sinking.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0452269865, Paperback)

Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old “good girl” when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to this older man, this hero, this soon-to-be-lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command—at a party that takes on the quality of a surreal nightmare; in a tragic car ride that we hope against hope will not end as we know it must end. One of the acknowledged masters of American fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has written a bold tour de force that parts the black water to reveal the profoundest depths of human truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Flattered by the attentions of a senator she has met at a Fourth of July beach party on Grayling Island, Kelly Kelleher accepts a ride from him, taking a first step toward her final confrontation with death.

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