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Faithless: Tales of Transgression Paperback – June 4, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Penzler Pick, March 2001: I guess it's no secret that I regard Joyce Carol Oates as one of the great living American writers, both of mystery-crime-suspense fiction and of virtually every other form invented. I previously reviewed Blonde, which went on to be nominated for a National Book Award, and it's my joy to be able to recommend Faithless: Tales of Transgression, the stories within which are about as good as the short story gets. (Full disclosure here, with the admission that I might be a trifle prejudiced in favor of this volume. It is dedicated to Alice Turner, the former fiction editor of Playboy, and to me--largely, I reckon, because several of these stories were written especially for several anthologies of which I was the editor.)

There are 24 stories in this generous volume and while some inevitably linger longer in the memory than others, there is not a dull spot in its nearly 400 pages. The title story is a haunting tale of the disappearance of a woman as recalled by her two daughters, grown now. The ending is utterly expected but, nevertheless, comes as a shock. "The Vampire" is not at all a horror story, at least not in the sense that it involves in any way elements of the supernatural, but has a growing sense of pure terror as the reader comes to see the way in which one person can absorb all the life out of another.

In "The High School Sweetheart: A Mystery," a famous mystery writer reads a speech as he accepts the presidency of the most prestigious of all mystery organizations. The speech is delivered as a piece of fiction that appears to be a confession of a horrific crime committed during his teen years while besotted with a girl two years older than he. When the speech ends, the audience cannot imagine applauding because the story seems so true. Is it?

Once again, the incomparable Joyce Carol Oates has produced a compelling and important volume for the shelves of anyone who cares about distinguished suspense fiction. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Oates long ago established herself as the nation's literary Weegee, prowling the mean streets of the American mind and returning with gloriously lurid takes on our midnight obsessions. If she has left a stone in the shared unconscious unturned, she turns it here in this collection of 24 wide-ranging stories. As the subtitle suggests, the book's preoccupation is sin, but otherwise the stories are richly various. They range from quiet, intimate tales--such as the chilling opening effort, "Au Sable," about a man let in on a suicide he cannot prevent--to the satiric fantasia on TV journalism and police brutality that closes the volume, "*In COPLAND*." Indeed, the stories (and there are enough here for two if not three volumes) are loosely grouped into three untitled sections, respectively focused on individual obsession, family and notorious recent crimes. Throughout, sex often seems the innocent engine of our sins. In the title story, which opens the second section, sexual infidelity is offered as a coverup for a much deeper faithlessness, and in "What Then, My Life?" a successful woman asks whether her life would have been as meaningful and successful if the sexual assault that marked her youth had not occurred. But it is the stories of the final section that will probably attract the most attention. These tales echo the headlines--the Menendez brothers, Columbine, Abner Louima--but do so with great imagination and unexpected humor. Some may see the collection's virtue, its great variety, as its vice, judging it a miscellany of sketches and treatments written quickly during off hours. But few if any authors share Oates's phenomenal range, and few know our dark but shimmering secrets so well. (Mar. 3)Forecast: Post-Blonde, Oates is flying high. The stories may be a hard sell, particularly with so many Oates novels on the shelves, but strong reviews and lingering Blonde effervescence could translate into decent sales--and of course this should remain a perennial backlist item.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060933577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060933579
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #725,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Adler on April 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Looking at the cover of this book, you might easily delude yourself into thinking that these stories are all in some way about marital infidelity. In fact, they are not. I happened to look inside the front cover of the book, and was reminded that many years ago Ms. Oates published a collection called "Marriages and Infidelities," which in a way seems like some sort of irony. Taking a cue from the title story, "Faithless" in the middle of the book, we learn that meaning of the word here is tied to religion and a particular character's lack of belief in God, and secondarily, her supposed lack of marital fidelity. Looking at the subtitle: "Tales of Transgression", we might think of sin. If we look at the introductory quote from Pascal to the entire collection, you get a further clue, " When one does not love too much, one does not love enough." So, what ties these 22 very different stories together? Where do the characters fail or go awry, as most of them do? Is it lack of faith in God, sinning against an individual or society, being dangerously devoted to a misguided cause or belief, or a simple lack of inner strength?
Sometimes the stories are slices of life, the simple grinds, the fears of ordinary everyday life. Example: The daily routine of an unloved and lonely young waitress. Others go deeper and darker, touching on chilling family secrets and contemporary societal evils, from a suspicious disappearance of a wife and mother, to euthanasia, to a planned murder by a spurned lover, and to the physical violation of an undercover TV reporter. These are just a few.
What is exciting and what elevates Ms. Oates' stories are that they invite endless speculation and don't give up automatic answers. The only common thread is Ms.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on July 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In her latest book, "Faithless: Tales of Transgression", Joyce once again shows her readers her virtuosity in the mastery of the short story. While the book is a compilation of stories relating to "transgressions" the manner of selection and the juxtaposition of the tales within the book is masterful in and of itself. Not only does Joyce deal with transgressions of marital fidelity, but she captures the essence of other transgressions. Those against oneself. Those against others not our lovers. Those against family members. And those of society against its people.
Joyce's articulation of the mental processes and logic of the transgressor and the transgressed provides a window into the "existential human experience" the likes of which are only rivaled by such authors as Camus, Kafka and Sartre. The book is constructed to take the reader from self-transgressions all the way through the entire spectrum to perhaps the ultimate societal nightmare, the "faithlessness" of those sworn to "protect and serve", the police forces of the country and specifically those of New Jersey.
Joyce makes very little attempt to hide the venue of her stories, and by doing so, she makes them even more personal. Yet, her manner of writing and her incredible acumen and sensitivity allow her to write the stories in such a way as to make them timeless and placeless, so that the reader comes to understand that these things could be happening in any place, in any town, in their own backyard.
The book is perhaps the finest compilation of stories to come out this year and perhaps will remain so until the end of this year.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jatoby on July 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking 'wow, where does this all come from'. Oates has a deep well of endless stories, thoughts and ideas. This book stirred my mind up -- during the period of time I was reading it, I was dreaming every night. An excellent read for variety, emotion, suspense and wonder!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on November 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Joyce Carol Oates is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her work is amazing and with prose so beautiful that it is at times lyrical. I have loved all of her short story collections and marvel at the fact that am all the more impressed every time I pick up a new Oates book. Faithless: Tales of Transgression isn't an exception. This amazing short story collection covers a vast variety of subjects that speak to you and move you to the core. Some are dark and others are downright shocking, but they are always memorable. My favorites are "Ugly," "Physical," "Secret, Silent," "The Vampire," "A Manhattan Romance," "We Were Worried About You," and "Faithless." Here you will find stories centered on self-esteem, relationships gone awry and even murder mysteries (I should add that the story "The Vampire" isn't centered on the paranormal, but it is a quite impressive and somewhat disarming tale that ought to be read). There is something for every reader in this collection. I for one have fallen in love Oates's keen storytelling all over again. I cannot recommend Faithless enough.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I originally wanted to read just one or two stories while I waited for another book I had on hold, but ended up reading about 10-12. The people in this book are often disturbed individuals and I loved it. Nothing like a protaganist to hate and pity I say. Oates has come a long way in her writing. the dialogue in particular in these stories is great and I could envision the scenes in each story. At a minimum, pick this up at the library and read a couple stories. I recommemd: faithless, lover, and questions
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