A wildly inventive new collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates that charts the surprising ways in which the world we think we know can unexpectedly reveal its darker contours.

Black Dahlia & White Rose
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Ecco Press
Year: 2012
Pages: 288

The New York Timts has hailed Joyce Carol Oates as “a dangerous writer in the best sense of the word, one who takes risks almost obsessively with energy and relish.” Black Dahlia & White Rose, a collection of eleven previously uncollected stories, showcases the keen rewards of Oates’s relentless brio and invention. In one beautifully honed story after another, Oates explores the menace that lurks at the edges of and intrudes upon even the seemingly safest of lives—and maps with rare emotional acuity the transformational cost of such intrusions.

Unafraid to venture into no-man’s-lands both real and surreal, Oates takes readers deep into dangerous territory, from a maximum-security prison—vividly delineating the heartbreaking and unexpected atmosphere of such an institution—to the inner landscapes of two beautiful and mysteriously doomed young women in 1940s Los Angeles: Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia, victim of a long-unsolved and particularly brutal murder, and her roommate Norma Jeane Baker, soon to become Marilyn Monroe. Whether exploring the psychological compulsion of the wife of a well-to-do businessman who is ravished by, and elopes with, a lover who is not what he seems or the uneasily duplicitous relationships between young women and their parents, Black Dahlia & White Rose explores the compelling intertwining of dread and desire, the psychic pull and trauma of domestic life, and resonates at every turn with Oaies’s mordant humor and her trenchant observation.


Contents

I

  • Black Dahlia & White Rose

II

  • I.D.
  • Deceit
  • Run Kiss Daddy
  • Hey Dad
  • The Good Samaritan

III

  • A Brutal Murder in a Public Place
  • Roma!
  • Spotted Hyenas: A Romance

IV

  • San Quentin
  • Anniversary

Awards

  • Bram Stoker Award, 2012 winner: Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
  • Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, 2013 shortlist
  • Best American Short Stories, 2011: “I.D.”

Book Covers


Exerpt

From “Black Dahlia & White Rose”

BLACK DAHLIA & WHITE ROSE: Unofficial Investigation into the (Unsolved) Kidnapping-Torture-Rape-Murder-Dissection of Elizabeth Short, 22, Caucasian Female, Los Angeles, CA, January 1947
Material assembled by Joyce Carol Oates

K. KEINHARDT—PHOTOGRAPHER:
They were lost girls looking for their fathers.
So I knew they’d come crawling back to me.

NORMA JEANE BAKER:
It is true that I was lost—but I knew that no one would find me except myself—if I became a Star in the sky of Hollywood where I could not be hurt.

He was the one—“K.K.” we called him—who took pictures for the girlie mags & calendars—the one I begged Please don’t make me into a joke. Oh please that is all I ask of you.

ELIZABETH—“BETTY”—SHORT:
Nasty lies told about me post mortem but none nastier than that I did not have an actual father—only just a pretend-father like Norma Jeane whose crazy mother would show her studio publicity photos of Clark Gable—whispering in the child’s ear Here is your father, Norma Jeane! But no one must know—yet.

Poor Norma Jeane! Some part of her believed this craziness, why she was always looking for Daddy. Why Norma Jeane made bad mistakes seeking men like she did but that was not why I made my bad mistake winding up post mortem in a weedy vacant lot in a dingy neighborhood of Los Angeles so mutilated the hardened LAPD detectives shrank from seeing me & quickly covered my “remains” with a coat for I had an actual father named Cleo Marcus Short who favored me above my four sisters Kathryn & Lucinda & Agnes & Harriet & wrote to me solely, in 1940, when I was sixteen, to invite me to live with him in California—which Daddy would not have done if he had not truly loved me.

Post mortem—is the Latin term. Post mortem is this state I am in, now. That you do not know exists when you are “alive” & you cannot guess how vast & infinite post mortem is for it is all of the time—forever & ever—after you have died.


Reviews

Donna Seaman, Booklist, September 1, 2012, p. 39
5 stars
“With precision and force, the ever-mesmerizing Oates rips open the scrim of ordinariness to expose the chaos that undermines every human notion of control, reason, and sanctuary.”

Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio, September 18, 2012
4 stars
Her explorations of human loneliness and misery in this new book, “Black Dahlia and White Rose,” extend far beyond the psychological, into a style we have to say has become her watermark. Every day gothic I’d call it, which shows off the surprising miseries and few pleasures of the daily life of ordinary people with exaggerated nuance and painful punctuations sometimes physical, sometimes psychological.

Publishers Weekly
4 stars
Unsettling, potent, and suspenseful, these well-crafted and haunting stories attest to Oates’ superior imagination and mastery of the craft, and provide a welcome addition to her oeuvre.

Shaunna Hunter, Library Journal, November 15, 2012, p. 79
4 stars
Another winner for Oates, featuring well-crafted stories that leave the reader tense and uneasy, but captivated just the same.

Regina Marler, Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2012
4 stars
Although her material can be macabre, mawkish and deeply unsettling, Oates’ hypnotic prose ensures that readers will be unable to look away.

Randy Boyagoda, New York Times Book Review, January 20, 2013, p. 15
3 stars


Image: “Dahlia” by matthew.morgan95


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