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I'll Take You There: A Novel Hardcover – October 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060501170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060501174
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,601,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In her bewitching 30th novel, I'll Take You There, Joyce Carol Oates returns again to neurotic female post-adolescence. The unnamed narrator attends an upstate New York university in the early 1960s. In those times of tightly prescribed femininity, she joins a sorority in a bald attempt to become part of the sisterhood of normalcy. It doesn't work. She reads philosophy, she works for a living, she's asexual, she's an orphan, she's a Jew: "I was a freak in the midst of their stunning, stampeding, blazing female normality." Booted from the sorority, she falls hard for a thirtyish black philosophy student who seems to her to live on a higher plane than the rest of humanity. In the final section, she is called west to the deathbed of someone she thought was lost to her forever. Oates brings together some of her strongest trademark qualities: She writes her character's life as though it were a fairy tale. She sells her material, bringing dramatic tension to the very first page: "They would claim I destroyed Mrs. Thayer.... Yet others would claim that Mrs. Thayer destroyed me." And she writes with tender care about the intellectual life of her young protagonist. Some find Oates's obsession with nascent womanhood claustrophobic, but in this heroine she finds a vein of integrity and intellectual probity peculiar to those who are not quite adult. Most writers treat college life as comedy or romance. Oates, on the other hand, seriously explores an age when we are most terribly ourselves. She seems to find something deeply human and pleasingly dramatic in this time wedged between childhood and adulthood. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

Most of us transcend the solipsism of loneliness by involvement in family, school or work. "Anellia," the narrator of Oates's 30th novel (who never reveals her real name), is denied the comfort of a family, finds education to be a frustrating journey through various hostile worlds and finally becomes that most solitary of creatures, a writer. The time is the early '60s. Anellia is the last child of Ida and Eric. After Ida's death (for which Anellia is blamed by her three brothers), Eric leaves his daughter to be raised by his cold German Lutheran parents in the upstate New York town of Strykersville. Anellia wins a scholarship to Syracuse University around 1960. She becomes for a period a Kappa Gamma Pi. The conventionally girlish Kappas are a decidedly different breed from Anellia: she is intellectual, shy, careless of her looks and hygiene, poor. Eventually the Kappas and Anellia come to a violent parting of the ways. Next, Anellia has a depressingly anhedonic affair with a black philosophy graduate student, Vernor Matheius. Vernor is trying to hold himself aloof from the civil rights struggle making the evening news, yet necessarily becomes drawn in. In the final section, Anellia, living in Vermont and working on her first book, goes to Utah to be with her father on his deathbed. Oates's fans will be pleased by the usual care with which she goes about constructing the psychology of Anellia and Vernor, but may find Anellia too narrow and stifling a spirit, limiting the larger gestures and bravura flashes of gothicism at which Oates excels.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Joyce Carol Oates is just such a good writer.
Linda Linguvic
One of the most interesting devices the author uses in I'LL TAKE YOU THERE is both interior monologue and real-time observations.
I finished the book wanting more from her, as usual.
Creative 1

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on October 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I'll Take You There is a story divided into three sections concerning crucial stages of a girl's development and narrated in the first person by the girl, Anellia, herself. This is the same structure Joyce Carol Oates uses in her 1986 novel Marya: A Life though the stories of the two novels differ in some crucial elements. The first section, The Penitent, is primarily concerned with Anellia's torturous time spent in a sorority called Kappa Gamma Pi and her relationship with the foreboding and ultimately tragic English headmistress Mrs. Agnes Thayer. Her entrance into the sorority sparked by a timid desire to gain acceptance from her peers, gradually reveals the shallow nature of the sisters and the vacuous symbols of their elite collective. The second section, The Negro Lover, explores Anellia's complex relationship with brilliant and troubled Vernor Matheius. Her obsession with the philosophy student blooms into a tumultuous relationship based on passion that is stirred by feelings of alienation. Each of them are fiercely intelligent and trapped by a societal definition based on the exterior that they cannot escape. But unlike Vernor, Anellia embraces this identity distinction, her Jewish heritage, in order to exile herself from the repugnant normality she has discovered. The third and slightest section, The Way Out, finds Anellia extracted from the developmental struggle of university and unexpectedly driven to a reunion with her estranged father. As he is slowly dying, she develops a relationship with his caregiver and fiancee Hildie. The feelings of opportunities lost and emotions wasted are gradually excavated over their time together as they come to terms with losing a man who will always remain an aloof mystery.Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on January 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have to start off this review by admitting that I love Joyce Carol Oates. There is something wonderful, entrancing about the rhythm of her prose that is again present in I'll Take You There. Her writing is always so wonderfully evocative and almost hypnotic. Her characters, in particular the nameless narrator if I'll Take You There, are all trapped in something they cannot see, but which Oates lets us see all too well. In I'll Take You There, the narrator, a young college woman in the early 60s is desperately trying to fit it and although at times she succeeds, that success is only external. Internally, for some reason she perceives herself as a loser, a misfit. She tries first to fit in with a sorority and when that doesn't work out, she undertakes a relationship with a African American graduate student about ten years her senior. Neither of these "relationships" are right for the narrator for reasons she sees, but for some reason ignores. She is a complex and at times frustrating protagonist, yet Oates keeps you reading. I enjoyed this book very much, but I will say that if you are not an Oates fan, this novel will not change your mind. Oates fans, on the other hand, should enjoy this one completely.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "me-jane" on June 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've read maybe eight or so Joyce Carol Oates novels - but because she's almost scarily prolific, I've still barely made a dent in her oeuvre (where does she find the time to sleep?). This seems to me somewhat less inspired and less ambitious than some of her other novels, but she is such a skilled, experienced storyteller that you get the feeling she can reel off a relatively absorbing piece of fiction in a few lazy afternoons.
"I'll Take You There" is a tightly circumscribed, claustraphobic novel, exploring the psychological journey - I really hate that empty blurb-ish phrase, but it's applicable here - of a gifted, vaguely disturbed young woman in the 1950s. The nameless narrator who occasionally goes by the name of "Anellia" is an deeply idiosyncratic yet sympathetic creation. In the hands of a lesser writer, much of her painful passage to womanhood could be a little cliche, but Oates is expert at walking the tight-rope between the odd and the ordinary, the familiar and the alien; we feel like we've met Oates' characters before, and yet we also know we haven't.
As always with Oates, I find she is a brilliant but uneven stylist. Most of her books - the flawless "Foxfire" being the exception - have some long lifeless sections and some unbearably over-written passages, as well as stretches of truly exhilerating prose. ("Blonde" embodies this unevenness.) Like most readers, I don't read in order to hunt for jewelled phrases, but when you've struck upon one of Oates' truly hypnotic passages, you can't help but feel a little in awe, a little breathless - to borrow another blurby phrase - and you're momentarily filled with the conviction that she's a genius.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL ACUNA on November 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In the mid 1970's, The Staple Singers had a hit song with "I'll Take You There." The latest Joyce Carol Oates novel shares that title. But whereas, Mavis Staple sings of enlightenment through religion and finding a passage to God and redemption, a "Stairway to Heaven" as it were, Oates sets her novel in a scholarly,philosophical milieu: in a place and among those who have a definite take on we humans and our place in the cosmos. A place that is decidedly non religious. Philosophers like Spinoza, Pascal and Locke are by nature the questioners as well as the suppliers of answers. This is the nature of Philosophical thought. And even though it may sound like Oates has written a treatise on Philosophy, she has not for with "I'll Take You There" Oates is back in her old stomping grounds of Obsession, unrequited love and passion unrewarded and unrecognized. As Anellia, our lead character says: "I was possessed by the wayward passion of one to whom passion is unknown; denied, and thwarted..."
Anellia (this is what she calls herself and her real name is never revealed), is a an extremely bright and unsophisticated young woman who secures a scholarship to a college in "Upstate New York," and proceeds to throw herself headfirst into college life. Anellia is remarkably ill equipped emotionally and socially to be away from her family much less a member of a sorority,but when she is asked to join Kappa Gamma Pi she jumps at the chance to be part of a "family" and to have sisters who she hopes will fill a void in her life ("...I yearned for sisters: I reasoned that I'd had the others: mother, father, brothers, grandparents...sisters! I would be happy forever, I think."). Anellia fakes it for as long as she can but sorority life is not for her: "My Kappa self did not brood, was never melancholy...
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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.

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