By Joyce Carol Oates
An unprecedented collection of the best of Joyce Carol Oates’s short stories combined with eleven new stories.
No other writer can match the impressive oeuvre of Joyce Carol Oates, and High Lonesome: Selected Stories, 1966–2006 gathers stories from Oates’s seminal collections, including The Wheel of Love (1970), Marriages and Infidelities (1972), and Heat (1991), arranged by decade. All demonstrate what the Chicago Tribune has praised: “the fierce originality of Oates’s voice and vision, but also how she has imbued the American short story with an edgy vitality and raw social surfaces.”
- Spider Boy
- The Fish Factory
- The Cousins
- The Gathering Squall
- The Lost Brother
- In Hot May
- High Lonesome
- *BD* 11 1 87
- Fat Man My Love
- Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
- Upon the Sweeping Flood
- At the Seminary
- In the Region of Ice
- Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
- How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Corrections, and Began My Life Over Again
- Four Summers
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
- National Magazine Awards, 2006 finalist: “High Lonesome”
- Best American Short Stories, 2005: “The Cousins”
- Best American Mystery Stories, 1997: “Will You Always Love Me?”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1996: “Mark of Satan”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1991: “The Swimmers”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1990: “Heat”
- The Pushcart Prize, XVI: “The Hair”
- Best American Short Stories, 1985: “Raven’s Wing”
- National Magazine Awards, 1985 finalist: “Raven’s Wing”
- Best American Short Stories, 1984: “Nairobi”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 2nd Prize, 1983: “My Warszawa”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1st Prize, 1973: “The Dead”
- Best American Short Stories, 1970: “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction, and Began My Life Over Again”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1970: “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction, and Began My Life Over Again”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1968: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
- Best American Short Stories, 1967: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
- Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards, 1st Prize, 1967: “In the Region of Ice”
- Best American Short Stories, 1964: “Upon the Sweeping Flood”
SELECTING A RELATIVELY few stories among so many written since the early 1960s was a project that stirred both anticipation and dread in the selector, for the endeavor has the unmistakable air of the posthumous, like the symmetrical dates 1966–2006. It was painful to leave out so many favorites among my own stories, but I had to abide by a principle of selection: no stories from my most recent collections Faithless: Tales of Transgression and I Am No One You Know, which are still in print; no “miniature narratives” from The Assignation, Where Is Here? and elsewhere, though this form, a variant of prose poetry, has long fascinated me; very few surreal or “gothic” tales, which are among the closest to my heart. I wasn’t happy to give over so much space to stories like “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” that are readily available in other anthologies, but including them seemed necessary. I think that I can speak for most short story writers in saying that each of our stories exacts from us the same approximate commitment and hope. Prose fiction is, in essence, the realization of an elusive abstract vision in elaborate and painstaking construction, sentence by sentence, word by word. The daunting task for the writer is: what to include? what to exclude? Through our lifetimes a Sargasso Sea of the discarded accumulates, far larger than what is called our “body” of work, for each story is an opening into the infinite, abruptly terminated and sealed in language.
In this endeavor, I was encouraged by my editor Daniel Halpern and my fellow short story writers Greg Johnson and Richard Bausch, to whom thanks and gratitude are due.
Joyce Carol Oates
The Gathering Squall
A short film by Hannah Fidell, based on the Joyce Carol Oates Story
Greg Johnson, Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 4, 2006, p. K5
What are the qualities that make her short fiction so distinctive? They are numerous, but a few stand out: their narrative intensity, their astonishing variety and inventiveness and their crackling verbal energy, which almost never falters. Oates can inhabit the minds of sadistic killers, middle-aged academics and sensitive teenagers with equal authority and skill.
At their heart, her stories are experimental in the best sense of the word: They continually seek out new territory and new modes of expression. She once said in an interview that “radical experimentation, which might be ill-advised in the novel, is well-suited for the short story. I like the freedom and promise of the form.”
… A brief review can only suggest the wealth of fictional insight and aesthetic achievement in “High Lonesome,” which may someday be viewed as the very best of Oates’ nearly 100 published books.
John Freeman, Houston Chronicle, May 14, 2006, Zest, p. 22
In a perfect world, this big, lavish collection would do for Oates what similar volumes did for Katherine Anne Porter and John Cheever. Both of those writers were known (and given awards) in their time for their novels. But their real forte was the short story.
And so with Oates. The thin, quick air of the short story has always borne the weight of her themes most steadily. Her pell-mell prose can speed on toward devastating, bloody conclusions and leave us gasping in the wake.
Alan Cheuse, World Literature Today, September/October 2006, pp. 33-34
Oates is more than a brilliant interpreter of contemporary materials, and she often alerts us to the way in which she works consistently in the great tradition of the short story. By the mid-1970s, a number of these stories remind us, she was well on her way to becoming a classic writer, and someone who took on themes of American working-class and underclass life with an ease not usually demonstrated by a writer with such a high talent and ready grasp of classical technique.
Publishers Weekly, February 6, 2006, pp. 41-42
However much is made of her prodigious output, it’s the consistent quality of the work that lifts Oates into the literary pantheon.
Cathleen Schine, New York Times Book Review, April 30, 2006, p. 18
It is this fatalism combined with the suspenseful rhythm of her language that creates the odd, unsettling atmosphere of the stories. There are crimes here, but they will not be “solved” as they would be in police procedural. There is danger, but it will not be overcome as in a genre thriller. Her stories are closest, in terms of genre, to the great American horror stories of the 19th century, but here, too, with an important difference. When we read, say, Poe, we know the violence, creepy and disturbing, is a nightmare, a hellish and unusual event that entertains us and reminds us of the depths to which a human being can sink or be driven. In “High Lonesome,” however, that depth of depravity is the definition of what it is to be human.
Bruce Allen, Boston Globe, June 25, 2006, p. D7
But this rich volume comes at the right time, late enough in its author’s long career to stand as a sampling of her impressively varied wares. And, on balance and in retrospect, it succeeds in reminding us how far this indefatigable chronicler of all our lives has traveled, and how important and necessary it is that we keep on reading her.
Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City), May 7, 2006
Oates always seems best when building a character, and her stories can be enjoyed as much as character sketches. The recent stories here are the most interesting in the collection because they indicate how the super mind of this unique writer is working currently, although the stories are not starkly different from those of the ’60s.
Brad Quinn, The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo), August 5, 2006, p. 22
High Lonesome provides a definitive introduction to the disturbing and dangerous world of one of America’s most compelling–and busiest–authors.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, p. 153
Of the 25 stories reprinted here from earlier volumes, the best include a searching treatment of religious experience (“In the Region of Ice”); rich homages to literary masters (“The Dead,” “The Lady with the Pet Dog”); a haunting exploration of spiritualism (“Night-Side”); a nicely detailed racetrack story (“Raven’s Wing”); and one of the author’s creepiest depictions of adolescent sexual confusion (“Heat”).
Gregory Miller, San Diego Union Tribune, April 9, 2006, Books, p. 1
In these times, when the lure of the lurid comes at us from so many angles, how does the literary writer compete with the current graphic movie or Nancy Grace’s latest obsession? The answer, while hard to pin down, surely involves the creation of a rich and strange fictive landscape, with a singular style to match. But reading story after story in “High Lonesome,” one is worn down by a prose style that, typical of so much contemporary American writing, seems keyboard-driven in its staccato approach to narrative.
Janna Fischer, Denver Post, April 23, 2006, p. F13
At 664 pages and spanning the work of 40 years, “High Lonesome” is not a collection to be read in one gulp. It’s a nice window on Oates’ writing for those not familiar with her work, or a revisit for those who have read her novels but are not familiar with her shorter pieces.
Library Journal, March 1, 2006, p. 80
Booklist, March 15, 2006, p. 29
Image: from A Gathering Squall, a film by Hannah Fidell