By Joyce Carol Oates
New York: Mysterious Press, 2022
A collection of twenty-four disturbing tales of crime and suspense from literary icon Joyce Carol Oates, “America’s preeminent fiction writer” (The New Yorker).
Two hitmen in a depressed rust belt town struggle with a job gone wrong. A girl witnesses a horrifying accident and carries it with her for the rest of her life. Medical students bring a severed foot to a college party. Five-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Joyce Carol Oates has made a career of exploring the forbidden corners of human experience, and the stories collected here, spanning her first three decades as a writer, are among her most unsettling and unforgettable works to date.
Originally published in long out-of-print volumes, these tales have not appeared in any form this century—until now. Formally fresh and endlessly experimental, they show a writer boldly engaging with disturbing truths and terrifying possibilities, and deconstructing the tropes and expectations of traditional prose writing as she does so. But beyond their stylistic ingenuity, these are creepy, suspenseful stories that cut straight to the bone; their darkness will linger long after the final page is turned.
A must-read for long-time fans of Joyce Carol Oates and an excellent introduction for the uninitiated, the twenty-four tales included in Extenuating Circumstances exemplify the author’s idiosyncratic spookiness: “visceral, psychologically involving, and socially astute” (Booklist).
- The Death of Mrs. Sheer
- In the Warehouse
- By the River
- Queen of the Night
- The Revenge of the Foot, 1970
- The Doll
- Little Wife
- Death Valley
- Ladies and Gentlemen:
- Why Don’t You Come Live With Me, It’s Time
- The Buck
- The Model
- Extenuating Circumstances
- The Girl Who Was to Die
- Poor Bibi
- The Undesirable Table
- The Hand-Puppet
- The Collector of Hearts
- The Sons of Angus MacElster
Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2022
Oates typically leads her readers to focus on one plot element, while subtly rearranging the emotional landscape, leaving them in exhilaratingly uncharted territory. Spanning the first 30 years of Oates’s writing career, these stories aren’t for the faint of heart, but they’re a joy for anyone who appreciates the work of a master storyteller.
Ray Palen, Bookreporter, July 22, 2022
Joyce Carol Oates is an American institution. These stories have a little of everything and do such a fine job representing her style of writing, which can be best described as surprising, unsettling, disturbing, unique and never predictable.
Richard Cytowic, New York Journal of Books
Joyce Carol Oates’ tales are unsettling, disquieting, some endings left hanging, leaving readers not answers but questions that implicate more horror yet to come to the normal-seeming characters who inhabit them …
Image: Scott Sanford — “Haunted, obviously…”
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.
this is just amazing, Randy. an outburst of creativity on Celestial Timepiece. thank you!