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Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque Hardcover – February 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

The central haunting of this collection of 16 tales is not anything so concrete as a building haunted by a ghost, but rather the interior haunting of a human being by their ever-shifting sense of self. As Joyce Carol Oates puts it (in a fascinating afterword on the nature and history of the grotesque), "The subjectivity that is the essence of the human is also the mystery that divides us irrevocably from others . . . all others are, in the deepest sense, strangers." These stories, while all dark, cover a range of styles and subjects. Some are vividly violent; several are subtle and/or ironic. The New York Times praised this collection for "pull[ing] off what this author does best: exploring the tricky juncture between tattered social fabric and shaky psyche, while serving up some choice macabre moments." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Fiction machine Oates ( Foxfire ) industriously cranks out her 18th short-story collection, a wide-ranging offering of 16 grisly tales. She knows which literary buttons to push, and while there's certainly suspense in these selections, it's accompanied by the recognition of a tried-and-true formula at work. "The grotesque always possesses a blunt physicality that no amount of epistemological exegesis can exorcise," writes Oates in an afterword, and this broad definition characterizes the multifaceted and invariably disturbing selections here. These include the previously unpublished "Blind," a first-person account of an old woman who awakens during a thunderstorm to find herself blind and her husband dead; the similarly horrifying "Poor Bibi," about a couple that mistreats a dog; and "Accursed Inhabitants of the Bly," a reworking of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw . All the pieces here have a redeeming literary bent, although some are transparent in their motives. Undoubtedly a master of this form, Oates plies her craft like a skilled seducer, setting the mood and moving in for the conquest night after night after night.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (February 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525936556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525936558
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,012 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

Each time I just knew the next one would be the one to cast the spell, but it never happened.
Susan Meyers
At the very least, most readers will surely find themselves above being shocked by such themes as rendered in Oates' particular writing style.
Mary Akers
In other words, Oates callously torments with psychologically ambitious images that leave the reader feeling, not entertained, but disturbed.
Vicki Nyanor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By K. L. McBryde on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
The monsters who inhabit the sixteen stories that make up "Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque", by Joyce Carol Oates are not the creatures we typically associate with horror, but more frighteningly are people we encounter daily - husbands, fathers, mothers, and wives. Oates seems to delight in luring us into an innocent and familiar world, filled with people we recognize and trust, then locking the door and cutting off all of the lights. When our eyes adjust to the darkness, what we see and experience is a perversion of the reality we thought we knew.
The stories seem to become increasingly horrific as they go from the first to the last in the collection. It's as if Oates felt obliged to keep raising the stakes; as our sensibilities absorbed the shock of one story, she took us to a new level of terror with the next.
Ms. Oates raises the horror quotient by making her villains people or places we thought we knew. The first story in the collection, "Haunted", centers around the friendship of two twelve-year old girls who live in the country and share a fondness for exploring abandoned places. Ms. Oates captures the feelings of preadolescent angst and hands them back to us effortlessly. Just when we relax and think this is just a coming of age story with an edge, Ms. Oates twists it into a real life horror story with sexual abuse and murder. In "The Doll," a woman's memories of the dollhouse that occupied many hours of her childhood, begin to haunt her when she stumbles on what she believes to be its real-life replica. In "The White Cat", an adoring husband blames the distance growing between he and his young and beautiful wife on her white Persian cat. The cat in this story proves true the adage that cat's have nine lives. Too late, the husband learns he's only got one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Beth Garland on December 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
In an average life, the dark and macabre are kept hidden, bottled up, controlled, but in each eerie story of Joyce Carol Oates' Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, there is no such thing as an average life. There is a middle-aged woman, decades later still traumatized by the murder of her childhood friend; a young girl who learns the horrible truth about her parents; an unwed mother driven to an unthinkable act as she fills up the tub with scalding water; a parallel universe where a woman sees horrifying violence committed upon her; a conspicuous Christmas present given to a man by his missing brother's wife; and dolls who walk and function among the living.
In all of these stories, it is best not to become attached to any of the characters; some type of doom awaits them. These are not horror stories of the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street nature where victim after victim meets a gory fate; these stories are about crossing over from the world we define as normal to the world of the perverse. In this world, it's an everyday occurrence for a 39-year-old virgin to decide to be deflowered by a bingo master; for abortions to be punishable by death; for a grocery store to go on with business as usual though the shelves are filled with stinking, rotting goods; for an American girl to be groomed from birth by her parents to be auctioned off in marriage to the highest bidder, a man who will treat her with terrifying cruelty. Rarely do any main characters in these stories die, but they are transferred into a never-ending nightmare from which they will never awake, from which death might even be a blessing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LexBox77 on November 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
The author's stories are always unsettling, and the fascinating part sometimes is trying to figure out just why you've gotten the creeps so badly. The horrors she writes about are almost never easily definable.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Akers on December 31, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My main complaint with Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque was that the Afterword was not placed in the Foreword position. Had I known beforehand what the author's definition of grotesque was, I would have done much less grumbling while reading. But what I was expecting (raised as I was on the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the works of Poe and Hawthorne) was work that was more suspenseful and hair-raising and less merely bizarre.
During the majority of the time spent reading Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque I found myself wondering whether the author had written these stories as a way to study a genre, as an exercise. While this may be a useful way to develop one's writing skills, in Oates' case it resulted in work that was far too self-conscious. The only time I found myself getting lost in her imagined world was while reading the story Extenuating Circumstances. Perhaps it was precisely because of the limitations (beginning each sentence with "because") that I found it so engrossing, or perhaps it was the unusual use of the second person to tell the story in accusatory fragments. In either case, that story alone held me in thrall.
Mostly, Tales of the Grotesque left me feeling set-up by the title, which didn't live up to its promise in the modern sense of the word grotesque. In her own words, Oates says, "One criterion for horror fiction is that we are compelled to read it swiftly, with a rising sense of dread, and so total a suspension of ordinary skepticism, we inhabit the material without question and virtually as its protagonist." I agree wholeheartedly with this observation, yet save for the aforementioned Extenuating Circumstances, I neither felt that rising sense of dread, nor any suspension of skepticism.
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