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I'm hearing the name of Joyce Carol Oates all over the place at the moment. You made Beasts sound rivetting but no easy read so am wondering if it would be for me. On the other hand I like a challenging read from time to time.

I think I'm going to have to give in and get a copy of We Have Always lived in the Castle - especially if the author wrote the story you linked to a few weeks back - The Lottery?


Some of Joyce Carol Oates' subject matter is difficult for me to read, but I have always appreciated her talent and her style.
I recently finished My Sister, My Love. It incredibly unique and, as always, so well written.


My experience reading Joyce Carol Oates has been similar to yours Danielle- I find her work draws you in but leaves you feeling disturbed (and occassionally dirty). I admire her writing but find a little of it goes a long way!

That said, I'm interested to read Beasts which souns a bit like The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Sam Houston

"We Were the Mulvaneys" is a whole lot more main stream, but disturbing in its own way, of course, or it wouldn't be a Joyce Carol Oates novel. It's one of my favorites of hers.

Another of her "tamer" books is "You Must Remember This." It's been a long time since I read that one but I remember enjoying it...sounds like it's time for a re-read.


I just finished A Garden of Earthly Delights by JCO and I feel the same way about this book as you felt about Beasts...amazing writing ability, but the story is disturbing (a bit depressing) and in my case, the characters were all unlikable (yet I couldn't seem to stop reading about them). Sounds like this is JCO style :)


Cath--If it helps--Beasts is a very short book. There were only a few really disturbing scenes. I decided to start reading the Shirley Jackson book, too. Definitely more subtle and one you might really like. She did write the Lottery, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle seems like a hard to put down (so far anyway) book!
BN--She is a very good writer and I like that she really gives you a lot to think about. I'm glad I've finally read her and plan on reading more--even if it can be a little hard going sometimes!
Sarah--I think taking JCO in small doses is a very good thing indeed. I've read two short stories and this novella and they all packed a good punch. I'd like to read more, but maybe a little less sordid? I think it is her style to astonish the reader, though. And I have never read Donna Tartt!! I know I would like it, I just have never gotten around to it.
Sam--Her writing is really compelling and I can see why you've read all (?) her works! I do think something a bit tamer is on order for my next JCO novel, though. I also want to read her Winterbourn (? am I getting the title at all correct) novel.
Wendy--Actually, now that you mention it, I don't know that any of the characters in Beasts were particularly likeable, though I suppose I was somewhat sympathetic to Gillian. Still, it didn't matter--I also wanted to keep reading.


I think I got off to a bad start with JCO. I read her 'Rape: A Love Story' and found it banal. Violent, but banal. Not to mention cliched and polemical. It sort of put me off, which sounds like a shame. You've convinced me that I should back track and try her earlier fiction.

I'm finding this more and more. I try out venerable, big name writers in the form of their newest novel and I'm invariably disappointed. The moral seems to be: start at the pinnacle of their career and work out from there.


I felt exactly the same as you after reading this, But Oates is really clever in the way she makes you feel disturbed even in scenes that have no graphic content. I remember it's only at the very end that the real terribleness of the couple is revealed, isn't it? I seemed to think it said a lot (and all of it worrying) about the mentality of teenage girls. I'd also like to read We Were The Mulvaneys, and The Falls. Her voice is oddly intriguing.

Ann (Table Talk)

Isn't it strange how something can bring back a memory that you didn't even know you'd forgotten? Reading this reminded me of an Art lecturer at the first College I went to (1968-1971). He and his wife were noted as being just that bit different and outlandish and it was thought very much the thing to be taken up by them and invited to their home. But, you were all the time aware that they were 'measuring' you and your taste and possibly (probably) finding you wanting. And, if you didn't give the best of your energies to the things that they thought important, which didn't include the type of work needed to succeed in the College system, then you were unlikely to remain a favourite. I walked before I was pushed and I'd forgotten all about them until I read this. How strange.


I'm thinking from your description Danielle Beasts may not be the book for me! I must admit I find myself a little "soft" with my reading sometimes and find it very challenging to read books that I find disturbing. Having said that, different people obviously have different ideas of what disturbing and difficult is for them. I enjoy (if that is the right word) reading a lot of books about death and dying because that is an area I work in and feel confortable in - whereas some of my friends really struggle reading books about that subject matter. The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas is an example of that - I absolutely loved this book, did not find it disturbing and recommended it to all of my friends - one of whom was most distressed by reading it.
I remember reading "We Were The Mulvaneys" a while ago now and my memory is of it being a much more mainstream book and story.


This sounds good - much like my recent first experience with her in a book of short stories. Very odd and vaguely disturbing.


I didn't care much for We Were the Mulvaneys, so have avoider JCOs other work. This sounds interesting though, so I should perhaps give her another try. Have never heard of The Law and the Lady - I must really read some Wilkie Collins one of these days.

Dorothy W.

Oh, very interesting! I'm curious about what the horrible details actually are -- I know I'd be horrified, and yet I kind of want to know anyway! Strange ...


Yes! You described the feeling perfectly. The first time I read it I had a horrible knot in my stomach the whole time. Such anxiety in so few pages!


Ohhh, I think I'll put Beasts on my list for next year. It sounds wonderful like it has a kind of Donna Tart Secret History thing going on.


Victoria I felt the same way after reading that book, not one of her best but luckily I didn't start my JCO craze with that book. Try Man Crazy or Foxfire if you still appreciate the violence but want more character or Broke Heart Blues if you're looking for something lighter.


I've yet to read anything by Oates but I have several of her books. One I picked up simply because I was shocked by the title -- Rape: A Love Story. How disturbing is that? I'm not sure what it's about, but I'm pretty sure it will be disturbing. Not sure if I'll ever read it or not.


Oh wow... I have to say the most recent book that had me feeling quite disturbed was Out by Natsuo Kirino. Anyway, I haven't read JCO in a while but the last time I tried one of her books it was a short story collection and I found it unsettling.

I did read We Were the Mulvaneys a while back and it's a lot more mainstream. I can't remember much of the story but I know at the time I liked the book.


Wow, that review makes me want to go out and buy this RIGHT NOW! I've always loved the painting used for the front cover, so if I'd seen it in a bookshop, I know I would have picked it up.
It sounds intruiging, and perfect for where my reading has taken me recently!


Victoria--It's hard to know what to choose when you start with someone like JCO and they have already such a huge body of work. Rape:A Love Story doesn't appeal to me as much as some of her other books. You should give her short stories a try--the two I've read were very good. I plan on reading more of her work. Hopefully you won't be put off by that one book!
Litlove--I feel the same way--her voice really is oddly intriguing. I want to read more even though so much of it is disturbing, and she has a knack for not revealing too much too soon. You just get this eerie feeling that things are not right. Beasts was really not violent at all, and very few nasty scenes, but she is able to persuade you to think along those lines anyway.
Ann--That is strange, and it sounds almost to a T like the characters in this book. I guess people like this do exist, though I hope your professor never took it to the extent these characters did! Isn't it strange how a book or a smell or a photo can bring back an old and forgotten memory!
Karen--It feels sort of weird to say I like her work when you know what she writes about, but I suppose it is the way she does it that impresses me. I know what you mean, though, about not necessarily being drawn to books like this--it can be a real turn off in a way. I think I'm in the camp that doesn't like death and dying books. I totally struggled with Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking--about the death of her husband. I found myself reading as fast as I could to get through with it! I'm looking forward to the Mulvaneys, though!
Heather--I have your JCO post bookmarked in my bloglines (and hope to catch up on posts this weekend!!). So you know what I mean!
Tara--I do know what you mean by not getting on with a book though you want to like it. That happens to me as well (all readers I'm sure). Maybe you could try some of her short stories? I really liked Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been--not too bad, just a little creepy. And I really think I need to read the Collins next. I highly recommend his books and this one looks good!! A sort of detective story!
Dorothy--I think it must be morbid curiosity. It's like passing an accident, you really don't want to look, but curiosity gets the better of you! Beasts is a short book and quick reading if you find yourself tempted at some point!


Andi--I know that feeling. It's curious that so many of her books are so unsettling. It makes me want to read more about her life. Isn't this the book you have autographed?
Stefanie--I guess I should put down Donna Tartt's book--you're the second person to mention it, and I have never read it! It certainly puts the whole college experience in a different light!
Jodie--I'm not sure Rape: A Love Story would have appealed to me either, but for me it was good to start with some of her short stories. I will have to check out the books you mention now.
Lisa--It does sound like a disturbing book, doesn't it. I'm not sure it is one I would be drawn to read (I read a little bit about what it's about), but she has so many books there is bound to be something that does sound good. Actually I've found several.
Iliana--I think I also have a collection of her stories. I need to dig out the books I own by her--I have a feeling I have more than I remember. Why did I wait so long to try her work? I read Out, too, and found it to be rather shocking. I have her second book and she has a third on that is soon to be published.
Becca--The painting is a great illustration for the book. It really was an intriguing book and I still have some questions about it--I need to find someone who's read it, so I can talk about it!


Disturbed but riveting, that's exactly how I felt reading this! I really need to read something else by her, it's been a while.


Tanabata--The short stories I've read have been good. I want to try something a little less disquieting the next time around (though I think most of her work has some element of 'gothic' in it).

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