Monday, January 12, 2009

Reader's Diary #435- Joyce Carol Oates: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Short Story Monday

When I first started Short Story Mondays a couple years back, I had thought it would take off as a weekly feature that many other litbloggers would take up. I had hopes of it following in the footsteps of the wildly popular Poetry Fridays feature in which so many litbloggers participate. Eventually I'd even follow Poetry Fridays protocol, adding a Mr. Linky button to each week's post. I asked fellow bloggers to review a single short story, a collection of short stories, or even try their hand at writing their very own. Basically, any short story themed post would work. Then, on Mondays, I suggested they leave their links on my post, and we could all gather around to drink chai tea, read one another's posts and join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace. Alas, it was not to be. A few people showed interest but the number of participants never seemed to grow. I got really desperate and even tried franchising it out, asking some of the more popular crowd to take a shot at hosting it. A few did, but still, it fizzled. So, while I continued on with the feature, I stopped trying to recruit others. Oh well, at least it's peaceful in my little low-rated corner of the blogging world.

Then, last week, blogger Teddy Rose approached me and asked if I'd consider starting it up again. Shortly after, so did Intergalactic Bookworm. Well, whadayaknow? 2 people! I like those numbers! I'm dusting off the old fedora and coming out of retirement. For the next couple of weeks or so (longer if it catches on), I'll be adding Mr. Linky again for anyone who wishes to add a link to their own Short Story Monday posts (see above paragraph for post ideas). If you need a short story to read, I usually find mine online. In fact, links to all the short stories I reviewed last year can be found here.

Moving on to this week's story, I'm reviewing Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Wandering Coyote recently told me her favourite short story was Oates' "How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again". I know Wandering Coyote about as well as I know Joyce Carol Oates, so I figured I could remedy that somewhat by reading the story. But, I searched and searched and couldn't find it anywhere online. I did, however, find the "Where Are You Going" story.

It's a nasty piece of work. Not nasty in the poor writing sense, but just nasty-nasty. I'd call it horror, but I'm afraid it would conjure up images of zombies or mutant frogs that eat babies. It's really more life-like horror than that.

What makes it so particularly nasty is Oates' approach to the victim. There seems to be an almost perverse need to bring her down, as if the predator in the story is merely one of Oates' puppets.

For not one second am I faulting Oates or her writing. I was thoroughly impressed and perplexed by how Oates could accomplish such a mood. Early on, it became clear that Oates was out to get Connie, so how was it that I felt sorry for Connie? Shouldn't I feel the same as the author? Oates is no Humbert Humbert after all.

I think Oates first gets us on side with Connie by giving her a condescending, judgmental mother. It aroused my sympathy, as I suspect it was supposed to, and I thought, "of course Connie's shallow and frivolous; she's a teenager! Lighten up already!" And with that frame of mind, I lightened up, and went along down memory lane with Connie and those carefree summers of my teenage years. When I was young and naive...

Check out these other Short Story Monday posts:

Teddy reviews a couple short stories: F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and Jennifer Egan's "Found Objects". Eva is also in with a Fitzgerald story, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair".
Sandra reviews a collection of short stories by Christopher Meeks called Months and Seasons.
Laza is working through Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, a collection of short story retakes of classic fairy tales. This week she reviews "The Bloody Chamber", "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" and "The Tiger's Bride."
J.S. Peyton reviews a short by Jack Pendarvis called "Our Spring Catalogue".
C.B. James reviews a short story from Richard Lange's Dead Boys, called "The Bogo-Indian Defense."
J.C. Montgomery reviews "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Book Psmith reviews a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "The Red-Headed League."
Jan in Edmonds reviews a very short story by Helen Sears called "Demonstration".
Check 'em out!


Allison said...

One of my good friends has been hounding me to read Oates, but I've just never gotten around to it.

But I should. Your description of her story has me intrigued. Good thing I'm off to the library tomorrow!

Sandra said...

Poor John, I hate to think of you singing all by yourself in the great white north and no one to join hands with. If I can write a short review, when I'm up to it, I'll participate.

Teddy Rose said...

I just posted a link to my Benjaman Button post. I may not get a chance to write a review today for one I just finished.

Jo said...

Its one of my personal goals to read more short stories this year so this sounds good,. But I'll have to start next week coz I haven't read any this week. I'll be back next monday.

Sandra said...

My post was not written for this feature but it is a good short story collection and there may be someone left who hasn't read a review of it.

Unknown said...

I had joined the 100 Shots of Short challenge a while back and never started it. I'm going to try and do this weekly to help me get through it. I think its a great idea. I'm going to work on a post now.

Unknown said...

I'm thinking, maybe you need a button? They seem to be really popular and all the weekly meme things have one.

Unknown said...

First, I guess I'm trying to see how many posts I can put up here today. ;)

But, you should write a post on the Graphic Novel's challenge blog to advertise this. It's been a really active challenge, so it can't hurt.

Lynda said...

Nice review - I'm in for this weekly review and will be posting my short story on my blog later

Anonymous said...

One of my own personal challenges this year was to read one short story a week to get through some of the anthologies I have laying around, so this is perfect! You can definitely expect me to be a weekly contributor.

P.S. That story by Oates sounds intriguing. I just read Oates for the first time last year and was impressed enough to buy her collection "High Lonesome" - it's one of the books I'm trying to get to this year. I can't wait!

Wandering Coyote said...

I must admit I haven't heard of this Oates story, but must be on the look for it now that you've reviewed it. In the story I recommended, the one with the really long name, Oates does a great job establishing mood, atmosphere, tension, and character. There is a lot going on in it.

I also recommend Oates' novel, We Were the Mulvaneys. Great stuff.

Unknown said...

I've been doing the same thing, but on Sundays because I like the alliteration, for some time. How is it I didn't stop by here on a Monday before.

Here's my most recent short story review.

I'll make it a point to come by on Mondays from now on. I was planning on doing a Mr. Linky but never got around to it. Maybe someday. Until then, I just link up over here.

Unknown said...

I've been doing the same thing, but on Sundays because I like the alliteration, for some time. How is it I didn't stop by here on a Monday before.

Here's my most recent short story review.

I'll make it a point to come by on Mondays from now on. I was planning on doing a Mr. Linky but never got around to it. Maybe someday. Until then, I just link up over here.

katrina said...

I reguarly post about short stories, although I haven't read one this week end as I was away, I will make sure I come over o a monday, and hopefully steal some links to other short stories

Ali said...

I can't do this today, but for future weeks I'm totally in. I was going to start reviewing short stories for 100 Shots of Short, so I'll try to get into the habit of posting those on Mondays. And if you don't know about 100 Shot of Short (I'm new to your blog so if you've been posting about it daily I apologize for being a doofus), you need to connect with Rob for sure.

Anonymous said...

Great idea! Hope to join in next week.

Eva said...

I've started reviewing random individual short stories this year, so I'll just always publish a review on Monday! :)

J.C. Montgomery said...

I am...was...more of a casual reader when it came to short stories, even though I have several anthologies on my shelves.

[slaps hand - bad reader]

Short Story Mondays is a wonderful idea to help me delve into those tomes and share my experiences. Thanks for ressurecting this.

Since I saw you had Mr. Linky up and running, I used that to link to my post.

Stacy said...

I hope it does catch on. I would love to stop in every Monday and see what everyone is reading. Thank you for hosting.

Jan in Edmonds said...

See my blog for the first short story I've read this year for Rob's 100 Shots of Shorts. Just go to

Note that the story is from Isue 32of Lunch Hour Stories, editor Nina Bayer. To subscribe or just browse her site go to:

Jan in Edmonds ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think I should join in on Short Story Monday too - obviously with a Canadian Lit bent. Not that I don't have enough NCL books to read. But I think I will wait until after the Canada Reads Challenge is over. :)

John Mutford said...

Allison: Or you could just read this one online ;)

Sandra: I'll sing along with the caribou if necessary.

Teddy: Can't wait to read that one myself!

Jo: Great, see you then!

Laza: I've heard of the 100 Shots, I really need to look into it more. Agreed that I need a button. If you or anyone else would like to help come up with something, I'd be grateful. My wheels are turning.

Holistic Knitter: Glad to have you with us!

JS Peyton: The one story a week is a nice break from the other boosk I'm reading at the time.

Wandering Coyote: Thanks again for the Oates nod.

CB James: I'd come across your Short Story Sundays before. I agree the alliteration is catchy. The only thing that held me back from switching over was that I figured I'd have to commit to writing the post on Saturday night, and though I'm not a rampant socialite, it is less likely to happen. In any case, glad to have you here.

Katrina: Hope to see you then!

Ali: See you Monday. And thanks for the link.

April: See you Monday.

Eva: Now you'll never be stuck for a Monday blog post ;)

J.C.: And you're not allowed to miss any Mondays or you're out of the club. In all seriousness though, I'm happy you've joined us... and feel free to take it casually!

BookPSmith: And thank-you for visiting.

Jan in Edmonds: I love how many people are killing two birds with one stone. The birds deserve what's coming to them.

Melanie: Ooooh, Canadian short stories would be even more up my alley. I try to keep Canadian short stories represented, but since I only use ones available for free online, I find it a little more difficult to find any.

Bybee said...

Arnold Friend is the devil. His boots are too big for his feet because those are cloven hooves inside.