The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Harcourt
Year: 2007
Pages: 229

Ten suspenseful stories explore with chilling accuracy the ways in which evil enters our lives: In “Hi! Howya Doin!” an intrusive jogger meets with an abrupt fate; in “The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza” a young woman’s romantic view of her girlhood is devastated by her father’s confession; and in “Valentine, July Heat Wave” a man prepares a gruesome suprise for the wife who has betrayed him. In the memorable title story, a young woman tries to rescue her mother from the museum of Dr. Moses—with unexpected results. And the children of a notorious serial killer struggle to “decode” the patterns behind their father’s seemingly random acts in “Bad Habits.”

In this gripping new collection, Joyce Carol Oates explores with unnerving instinct the fraught relations between women and men, children and parents, and strangers whose lives briefly but fatally intersect. The Museum of Dr. Moses is another chilling masterpiece from “one of the great artistic forces of our time” (The Nation).


Contents

  • Hi! Howya Doin!
  • Suicide Watch
  • The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza
  • Valentine, July Heat Wave
  • Bad Habits
  • Feral
  • The Hunter
  • The Twins: A Mystery
  • Stripping
  • The Museum of Dr. Moses

Book Covers


Awards

  • The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, 2008: “Valentine, July Heat Wave”
  • National Magazine Awards, 2007 finalist: “Suicide Watch”
  • The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, 2005: “Stripping”

Excerpt

From “The Museum of Dr. Moses”

At the farther end of the room were shelves of bottles containing rubbery semifloating shapes: some were human organs, including eyeballs; some were human fetuses. These, Dr. Moses called his “specimens”—”mementos.” Clearly, each bottle had a personal meaning to him; shelves were labeled according to dates, bottles were yet more meticulously labeled. The stench of formaldehyde was almost overwhelming here, but Dr. Moses took no notice. He was smiling, tapping at bottles. I’d averted my eyes, feeling faint, but soon found myself staring at a quart-sized bottle containing a shriveled, darkly discolored fishlike thing floating in murky liquid, apparently headless, with rudimentary arms and legs and something—a head? a heart? —pushing out of its chest cavity. “This poor creature, I delivered on Christmas night, 1939,” Dr. Moses said, tapping at the bottle. I felt faint, and looked away. Not a fetus. An actual baby. I wanted to ask Dr. Moses what had happened to the poor mother, but he was moving on. You could see that the museum was Dr. Moses’s life and that a visitor was privileged to be a witness to it, but in no way a participant.

It was then that Dr. Moses muttered, “What! What are these doing here?” I had a glimpse of what appeared to be human hands. Embalmed hands. Several were appallingly small, child sized. Dr. Moses blocked my vision, frowning severely; he gripped my elbow and led me firmly onward. I made no sign that I’d noticed the hands, or Dr. Moses’s agitation.


Reviews


Image: “Extraordinary Bodies (photo exhibition) — Babies and Children” by Chris


 

Randy Souther

I'm a Reference Librarian at the University of San Francisco's Gleeson Library, and I run the Joyce Carol Oates web site, Celestial Timepiece.

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