Kevin Morris and Glenn Altschuler of The Huffington Post offer a perceptive and entertaining review of Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love: “Oates’ intentions are signaled with a quotation that precedes the book. In ‘Aesthetics of Composition’ (1846), we learn, E. A. Pym opined that ‘the death of a beautiful child is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.’ Problem: you’ve never heard of E. A. Pym. Solution: go to Google. You’ll discover that Arthur Gordon Pym is a character in an Edgar Allan Poe ‘narrative’ that dances on the border between fact and fiction. You might notice as well that Poe, who married a thirteen year old and was obsessed with incest, declared in an essay called ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ that ‘the death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.'”

“My Sister, My Love is John Barth with heart. It is Bonfire of the Vanities for grown-ups and literature majors. … With this tour de force … Joyce Carol Oates has helped us understand what it means to be human.”


  1. Hmm. Barth doesn’t have heart?

    Well, there’s no question that JCO has heart, but whether Barth has or doesn’t have is an interesting question.

    I think the early novels definitely have it. End of the Road and Sot Weed Factor. Even Giles Goat Boy. But the recent ones? I’m not so sure.

    But I wonder if that’s a thing that happens to male writers as they age. Do they lose their heart? Faulkner did, but Hemingway found that it got more and more in the way.


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