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.”

2 Comments »

  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.

    Like

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