A new collection of eleven mesmerizing stories by American master Joyce Carol Oates, including the 2017 Pushcart Prize–winning “Undocumented Alien”

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Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Ecco Press
Year: 2018
Pages: 352

In the diverse stories of Beautiful Days, Joyce Carol Oates explores the most secret, intimate, and unacknowledged interior lives of characters not unlike ourselves, who assert their independence in acts of bold and often irrevocable defiance.

“Fleuve Bleu” exemplifies the rich sensuousness of Oates’s prose as lovers married to other persons vow to establish, in their intimacy, a ruthlessly honest, truth-telling authenticity missing elsewhere in their complicated lives, with unexpected results. In “Big Burnt,” set on lushly rendered Lake George, in the Adirondacks, a cunningly manipulative university professor exploits a too-trusting woman in a way she could never have anticipated. In a more experimental but no less intimate mode, “Les beaux jours” examines the ambiguities of an intensely erotic, exploitative relationship between a “master” artist and his adoring young female model. And the tragic “Undocumented Alien” depicts a young African student enrolled in an American university who is suddenly stripped of his student visa and forced to undergo a terrifying test of courage.

In these stories, as elsewhere in her fiction, Joyce Carol Oates exhibits her fascination with the social, psychological, and moral boundaries that govern our behavior—until the hour when they do not.


Contents

I

  • Fleuve Bleu
  • Big Burnt
  • Owl Eyes
  • Except You Bless Me
  • The Quiet Car
  • The Bereaved

II

  • Les beaux jours
  • Fractal
  • Undocumented Alien
  • Donald Barthelme Saved from Oblivion
  • The Memorial Field at Hazard, Minnesota

Reviews

Publishers Weekly, December 4, 2017
3 stars
Oates toes the line between condemnation of and fascination with her characters in this collection of ethical failures. . . .  In Oates‘s narrowly constructed cast of ivory tower intelligentsia, subtle, toxic failings go unchecked.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2017
3 stars
Two surprisingly inventive tales appear in a section of fantasy and surrealism. “Les Beaux Jours” is narrated by a young girl so seduced by an erotic painting with that title that she enters its world to become the Master’s model only to discover that she can never return to her “old, lost life.” In “Fractal,” a boy obsessed with fractals and architectural drawings is swallowed up in a windowless, labyrinthian Fractal Museum. The overly long “Undocumented Alien,” though, about an immigrant who becomes a subject of neurological manipulation, is far less successful. A mixed, occasionally satisfying, volume.


Image: “Les beaux jours” by Balthus


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