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Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce…
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Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Showing 5 of 5
Strange, thought-provoking, unexplained or downright horrifying happenings intruding on often mundane lives, like a very twisted Roald Dahl. I didn't enjoy the overly didactic tales, but on the whole I relished the weirdness of this collection, especially 'The Doll', 'The Bingo Master', 'Thanksgiving', and 'Blind'. ( )
  Moomin_Mama | Mar 19, 2013 |
What is horrible to us, men and women, in all stages of life? It's not stupid college kids who always go where they shouldn't who face the most terrible stuff in these short stories. It's a young woman with an unwanted pregnancy and very little money to get rid of it. It's a boy and girl who find more love from a dead governess than a live one. It's a man whose wife's cat decides not to like him any more.

If the first stories don't seem to be very scary, stick with them. They get worse (or better depending on how you look at it). ( )
  mamzel | Mar 4, 2011 |
Joyce Carol Oates' Haunted is an excellent collection of stories that, for the lack of a better word, are "scary". However, these are not "scary" in the sense that Edgar Allan Poe or H.P Lovecraft are. These tales are much more like the plot of an episode of Twilight Zone with a twist at the end. As other reviewers have stated, her stories range from traditional scary stories that could to told on Halloween, to creepy tales with psychological implications, to horrific passages of violence.

The majority of the tales center around the relationship between a woman/girl and an abusive man. In most of the stories, the man and woman are related to each other though sometimes it takes a while to figure out their relationship. Though when reading these stories for the first time, the plots and characters may seem harmless. The terrifying elements lay just below the surface. Unlike in other scary story collections, Oates rarely shows the reader what is exactly to be feared. Instead, she describes and fear and panic surrounding the event and lets the reader infer. This technique makes the tales even more grotesque and horrific because there is no defined conclusion and it is up to the reader's imagination.

Oates also uses a variety of techniques that have become familiar to her readers. In one story, she begins each sentence with the word "because" which makes the tale almost seem like a free verse poem. Another story is segmented with each passage numbered as if the entire story is a list of some sort.

Though descriptions of the tales may sound interesting, the majority of the stories are incredibly upsetting. Instead of murderous hitchhikers or clawed murderers, these are stories that burrow deep into the reader's psyche and wreck havoc. These are not for readings around a campfire or for someone who wants chills on Halloween. The kinds of chills that these stories give are far deeper and are not easily ignored. ( )
  sorell | Dec 15, 2009 |
I was interested in reading something in the spirit of the season (Halloween) so I picked up this book of short stories, which ranged from creepy to downright disgusting. As an author, Joyce Carol Oates shows an uncanny ability to come up with strikingly different situations within which she weaves remarkable tales. With Oates, you never know what you're going to get because each story is completely different than the one before.

However, what is the same about each of the stories in this book is the underlying mood of confusion and panic. Whether it was the story about a successful university president surprised to find the exact replica of her childhood dollhouse on a street in Lancaster County or the one about the dead governess and valet haunting the children they loved and cared for in life, the reader never feels completely sure of the circumstances or clear about the story that is unfolding. The teacher in me couldn't help but think, as I was reading the book, that it would be a great one with which to teach the skill of making inferences (although it is most certainly not appropriate for kids of any age).

A few of my favorite stories were The White Cat and The Model. In The White Cat a man in his fifties develops an intense hatred for his (much younger) wife's white Persian cat. He makes multiple attempts to kill the cat yet somehow the cat continues to "haunt" him. In The Model a 17-year-old runner is approached by an artist in the park. He offers her a great deal of money to pose as his model for a picture. During these modeling sessions, the girl becomes convinced that this stranger is actually the father whom she has long believed to be dead. But, as the reader, you're never quite convinced that this is true...

There are sixteen stories in this book, but many of them were too distressing for me to consider enjoyable. While I admire Oates' writing abilities and these stories were definitely creepy, I found more of them upsetting than entertaining. In the end the final story, especially, turned my stomach enough to turn me off completely. ( )
  mgillis | Mar 15, 2009 |
Joyce Carol Oates' own unique take on the modern horror story. There's a neat bunch of variety here. Some are pretty subtle, bordering on the obtuse, while others use their subtlety as a veil over an unsettling reality.

Haunted -- A story of a friendship between two girls and the doomed and haunted houses of their rural milleu. Spooky and ambiguous.

The Doll -- While on a trip, a woman spots a house which is the very image of her favorite childhood dollhouse. Another spooky one, which reminded thematically of Ligotti or Schulz.

The Bingo Master -- A woman's strange experience at the local bingo parlor with a man of a most questionable nature. Also ambiguous, but bordering on the surreal.

The White Cat -- In this homage to Poe's "The Black Cat" a man decides to murder his wife's pet Persian. But sometimes, cats come back. Nicely disturbing.

The Model -- A teenager becomes the model for an eccentric old man. But why does he seem to have such an interest in her?

Extenuating Circumstances -- A creepy story of a horrible act, in which the act itself is never named, only the justifications for it.

Don't You Trust Me? -- In a country where abortion has been outlawed, becoming pregnant can itself be a horror story.

The Guilty Party -- Disturbing account of a single mother's relationship with her son, who seems smart and angry beyond his years.

The Premonition -- A man worries his brother will hurt his family. After he rushes over, he sees everything seems to be okay, if perhaps a bit strange. Oates uses subtlety to make clear the horror that has taken place.

Phase Change -- A woman begins to fall prey to hideous nightmares, which have her questioning her sanity.

Poor Bibi -- Another story where Oates' indicates the horror by covering it up. (There might be something a bit sadistic in it, as if she's denying the reader the cathartic release of terrible relevation.)

Blind -- A woman is awoking in the middle of the night by a storm which has caused the power to fail. As she makes her way in the dark, she begins to suspect it is no ordinary storm, not any ordinary darkness.

The Radio Astronomer -- A rather subtle piece about a man crippled by a stroke, which contrasts whis slow disolution into cosmic fantasy with his caretaker's grounded cynicism.

The Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Bly -- Another homage, this time to Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw." Spooky and sad.

Martyrdom -- Disturbing and surreal. The life of a rat who is all rats and a strange woman seemingly bred for domesticity, and their eventual meeting. ( )
  CarlosMcRey | Aug 2, 2008 |
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To Ellen Datlow
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Haunted houses, forbidden houses.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452273749, Paperback)

The central haunting of this collection of 16 tales is not anything so concrete as a building haunted by a ghost, but rather the interior haunting of a human being by their ever-shifting sense of self. As Joyce Carol Oates puts it (in a fascinating afterword on the nature and history of the grotesque), "The subjectivity that is the essence of the human is also the mystery that divides us irrevocably from others . . . all others are, in the deepest sense, strangers." These stories, while all dark, cover a range of styles and subjects. Some are vividly violent; several are subtle and/or ironic. The New York Times praised this collection for "pull[ing] off what this author does best: exploring the tricky juncture between tattered social fabric and shaky psyche, while serving up some choice macabre moments."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:46 -0400)

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