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Black Water Paperback – May 1, 1993

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (May 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452269865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452269866
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 5.3 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a plot shocking for its blatant familiarity, a figure identified as The Senator tipsily drives a young woman away from a party and off of a dock.A two-week PW bestseller and a BOMC selection in cloth, this novella is gripping and hallucinatory.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- ``She was the one he had chosen.'' This is Kelly Kelleher's thought as she leaves the party with a senator, as much a symbol of her desire to change her life as it is the fulfillment of a romantic dream. She's a young woman struggling to assert herself, but this rash move ultimately ends in tragedy. Oates makes readers feel that they are along for the very frightening ride in the car with Kelly and her senator in this shocking, all-too-familiar story. It's fast paced, almost as if to compel readers to keep up with the speeding car. Although brief, the book develops Kelly's character so well that the loss of such a young and promising life is deeply felt. The man sharing the last moments of her life is known only as ``The Senator'' throughout. Even for readers unaware of the true incident that was catalyst for this story, the novel stands strongly on its own . -- Carolyn Koehler, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Customer Reviews

The story, however, lacks real character development.
It is a story that moves very quickly filled with scenes that are packed with action and suspense.
Heather Schurig
If you start reading this book, you won't put aside it until you have finished it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
The premise for Joyce Carol Oates' tiny novel "Black Water" is the scandalous Chippaquiddick incident that anyone over the age of 40 should be familiar with. But what's remarkable about it is that Oates has transformed this "faction" into a beautiful ballad. The happenings of that fateful night when the black Toyota plunged headlong into the swampy river is told through the eyes of the drowning girl. There's a sense of real pathos in the telling cos it's painfully obvious the girl's impressed with the Senator for the wrong reasons and that he's a cad. The manner of the Senator's escape from the capsized car and his cruel abandonment of her as she awaits hopelessly for her own rescue is a wrench to read. The novel reads like a poem in parts. Maybe there's a song in there somewhere, with a verse, a chorus and a middle eight. By using the drowning girl's vantage viewpoint, Oates has created a powerful masterpiece that's so wonderfully compelling it bears reading over and over again. Truly great stuff !
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Katie Finn on April 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
The event itself is quite simple, and all too common. A drunken ride with a tragic ending. This is what Joyce Carol Oates gives us on the first page. From there her prose backpedals through Kelly Kelleher's childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood into the hours leading up to her death, which is described in nearly every chapter. The repeated death scene lends to the intensity of the novel. One would expect the book to go forward into the investigation of the accident, yet instead its narration goes backwards. Where, then, are the surprises? The surprises come in Oates's biting prose and in her portrayal of a female growing up in modern America with the ancient pressures of beauty and normalcy, as well as the more recent pressures of ambition and intellectual pursuits. In every chapter, there are thrilling sentences that left this reader in awe of Oates's strength as a writer. For example, this sentence leaves the reader feeling as thrown around as Kelly in the out of control Toyota: "In the jolting car they did seem immune to any harm, still less to a vehicular accident, for The Senator was driving in a way one might call recklessly, you might say his judgment was impaired by drink but not his skill as a driver for he did have skill, handling the compact car as if by instinct and with an air too of kingly contempt, so Kelly was thinking, though they were lost, though they would not make the 8:20 PM ferry after all, she was privileged to be here and no harm could come to her like a young princess in a fairy tale so recently begun but perhaps it would not end for some time, perhaps." The plot focuses on the interactions between Kelly and a never named Senator.Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Tom Schmidlin on April 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
With her novel Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates has taken a sad occurrence in American political history, the Chappaquiddick incident, and explored it from the perspective that most of America and the media did not consider when the accident happened, that of the young woman who lost her life in the car crash. She then utilizes that perspective to put forth a compelling statement of the deterrent effect such an incident should have on other "American girls" who would follow in the footsteps of Mary Jo Kopenkney, whom Oates bases the main character, Kelly Kelleher, upon.
The book's most striking feature is its unconventional structure. Though it is only 154 pages long, it is divided into 32 chapters, some of which are only a page long, and two parts. The chapters often repeat sections of the story over and over, adding a little more information or changing the perspective just a bit, until ultimately the reader receives a fully constructed picture of the incident and the preceding events.
Oates chooses to delve deeply into the main character, Kelly Kelleher, and leave the would-be antagonist with just a vague descriptive title, The Senator. There are several reasons for this, among them a kind of ironic objectification of the political figure in a way similar to the media's treatment of Mary Jo Kopenkney, and to focus the reader's attention in such a way that he or she realizes that the identity of The Senator is not what is important. It is what he represents, a glossy, distinguished portrait of American political success that is most vital to Oates's thematic concerns. Oates is addressing the attraction that some young women in our society feel for that political success, and the resulting ways that cold and selfish men can manipulate that attraction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Black Water is a fiction book by Joyce Carol Oates. This story is about a young woman named Kelly Kelleher. It was the night of July 4th when she was beginning to fall for a man, the senator. The author comes out right away, detailing this fatal attraction. She describes over and over again, the details of how their car went off the road and into the rushing water. They were hurrying to catch a ferry and the alcohol in the senator's system caused him to speed along the unpaved road recklessly. Oates is a very descriptive writer, most evident when she describes the water for you. "On all sides a powerful brackish marshland odor, the odor of damp, and decay, and black earth, black water." If you're looking for a book different from many others in the way it's written, I would strongly suggest Black Water. Oates skips around between events throughout the story, entering Kelly's past, present, mind, and body. One minute you'll be hearing about one of Kelly's childhood memories and before you know it, she'll be back in the water. Along with the variety, this could also be a bad thing. It causes the book to be confusing and hard to follow. The actual concept of drowning can be very disturbing, but this book covers more than that. Although you know the entire time how the story is going to end, Kelly's thoughts force you to hope it doesn't. Oates is also very strong in developing her characters to help establish a picture of them in your mind. "How tall he was, how physical his presence. And that dimpled grin, the big chunky white teeth." As soon as I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. There was something about the actions going on that kept me hooked. At the same time, this book may not be for you if you don't like stories that are somewhat hard to follow. I think this book is very interesting and would recommend it. The writing style is unlike other books and it's good to have change.
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