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Wild Nights!: Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061434795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061434792
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this intriguing collection, Oates writes fictional death scenes for five canonical American writers, adopting elements of their signature styles with mixed results. The Poe story, written as a diary in the months after Poe's death, doesn't quite dole out its revelations with Poe-like abandon. Emily Dickinson's end is set not in 19th-century New England but in the 21st-century New Jersey suburbs, where an Emily Dickinson replicant, complete with enigmatical utterances, is purchased by a tax attorney and his wife to liven up the house, but ends up highlighting the banality of their existences. Samuel Clemens's death is set, menacingly, against his penchant for befriending adolescent girls, a habit deplored by his spinster daughter, Clara. The prize story, however, is Papa at Ketchum 1961, where Oates inhabits Hemingway's terse style to show the great man going down in a paroxysm of psychoses. This brutal turning of Hemingway against himself sparks a torrent of rage like that of early Oates novels such as Them. It marks an explosive ending to Oates's peculiar fantasy game, one that begs to be treated at length. (Apr.)
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“…an imaginative, impressive work that spotlights yet another side of Oates’ prodigious talent.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Our most industrious writer back at the anvil, making her usual unholy racket, while simultaneously throwing off sporadic sparks of unalloyed brilliance.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“…when tackling Wild Nights!...I found myself not only enthralled but transported.” (Washington Times)

Customer Reviews

"The Master at St. Bartholomew's Hospital 1914-1916".
Harriet Klausner
Oates shows truly unique and incredible talent, as each one of the stories is as if written in the hand of the author she is describing.
Jon Linden
I ended up liking this book much more than I expected to.
J. Jacobs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Joyce Carol Oates, (JCO), really shows her skill as a writer. In these five tales, Oates alters the final years of five writers: Edgar Alan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens; Henry James and Earnest Hemmingway. She writes a tale that for some of them is a shocking view, but never without merit. Oates shows truly unique and incredible talent, as each one of the stories is as if written in the hand of the author she is describing.

For example, in E. A. Poe's case, she changes the scene of his death to a lighthouse off the coast of Chile. But the real beauty is in the way she imitates Poe, writing about Poe. In her story about Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens, she imitates his writing style, while being both autobiographical and biographical, inventing some very interesting outside interests that Mr. Twain indulged himself in, but not in an improper or truly ethically aberrant manner, if at least a little inappropriate. Twain's story is significantly epistemological as she utilizes a letter format in much of the story to move her point along, and since there is such a plethora of Twain correspondence, JCO can more easily transport herself into Twain in that writing style.

While her stories of Dickinson and James are equally fabulous pieces, she truly outdoes herself in her depiction of Hemingway, in his later life, married to wife number four, describing his suicidal ideations and attempts in a highly autobiographical tone, with a truly polished `Hemingway' manner that only a true expert in the writings of the man and the history of the man, could conjure eloquent execution of another author's writing style, while still keeping within her inner framework of the psychological school of writing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on June 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Wild Nights, the latest from Joyce Carol Oates, is a collection of five longish short-stories, each of which fantasizes about the end days of one of America's best known and most respected writers. As indicated by the book's complete title, there are stories about Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemmingway, in that order. And strangely enough, at least to me, the stories seem to have been ordered in such a way that each tops the previous one in degree of sadness the reader will feel on behalf of the author being featured.

Edgar Allan Poe, grateful for having been given the job of lighthouse keeper on Vina de Mar and looking forward to the complete isolation promised by his employer, comes to find that sanity is not an easy thing to hold onto when one's only companion is an independent little dog. Emily Dickinson's end days, as envisioned by author Oates, come in the twenty-first century, not in the nineteenth, and are bought and paid for by a couple who decide to make their home more intellectually interesting by purchasing a robotic replicate of Dickinson's talents, emotions, and memories. The very fact that "Dickinson" would face similar end days numerous times in different homes marks the story as an even greater tragedy than the one faced by Poe.

Next comes the story of Sam Clemens, forced to "perform" as the character Mark Twain in order to make a living because his royalties will not sustain his lifestyle any longer, and desperately unhappy since the deaths of his favorite daughter and his wife. His only comfort is the friendships he so desperately seeks with little girls between the ages of ten and fifteen, something that drives his daughter Clara crazy and that, even in early twentieth century America, had to be a little suspect.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joyce Carol Oates notes where the title for this volume comes from, as she quotes verse from Emily Dickinson:

"Wild Nights--Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!"

This is a book, as the subtitle indicates, about the "Last days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway." As such, there is considerable idiosyncrasy and fantasy here. Poe's and Dickinson's last days, of course, were nothing as portrayed here. However, each short story does capture something of their minds and possibly of, in Poe's case, his state of mind "at the end."

There are five stories of endings. Some are fairly "realistic," whatever that term might mean. There is Hemingway. His story begins with his suicide, and then following thereafter is a set of vignettes letting the reader know something of his personality and thinking. Not an altogether pretty picture, whether imagining shooting his father, his macho views of women, his self-loathing as he ages and cannot perform (artistically or physically) as once he could, his disdain for his fourth wife. And always that self-loathing. His drinking? As Oates mentions as Hemingway is depicted as helping with the funeral/burial of his father (who also committed suicide) (Page 207): "Afterward he did in fact get damned good and drunk and the drunk would last for thirty years." A not-very-flattering picture, but the rage and all else seemed to push him to his inevitable end. A powerful piece of work in this book.

Then there is the science-fiction/fantasy story of the last days of Emily Dickinson. She appears here, actually, as a "replicant," smaller than life. A couple with a rather dead marriage purchase her to pacify the wife but also provide something new in the household.
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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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