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Faithless: Tales of Transgression Paperback – June 4, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #762,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
I could easily add a star for Oates' superb prose and characters, though I have stayed at three largely to represent the true nature of this collection. Tales of transgression INDEED. The average reader, having read a few of Faithless' narratives, may find themselves re-considering whether or not they want to traverse the remaining tales, well-wrought as they are. These are portrayals of humanity's dark side, as well as the unforgiving nature life sometimes exhibits. Some protagonists may be likeable, or neutral, while others are utterly disturbed or just simply bad people. In some worlds, there are no saviors.

Despite their dark nature, the narratives themselves are oddly compelling. While I appreciate the despair and disillusion of the characters, more than anything I continually wanted to know what happened in the end. But that rarely works out. Oates is a master of the question-mark ending, with most narratives building to a point where they simply stop without resolution. This works for this collection, because as in life, these characters' trials aren't simply resolved; in some cases, they are probably never resolved. There is a certain sense with these stories that they continue after their stopping point in the book, without the reader knowing the conclusion. Or in some cases, the narrator chose to stop sharing after a point. It's a device well-developed by the author, though it will leave many readers feeling uncertain. And this I feel is the point of Faithless: to make the reader bear witness to the characters' inner selves, placing them in the center of emotions ranging from mild discomfort and misunderstanding to outright menace and barely-controlled fear.
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