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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "One picture will be your obituary. Can't smile for you obituary.", January 24, 2014
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This review is from: Carthage (Kindle Edition)
Chillingly, since childhood, Cressida had refused to smile in pictures for fear she would be smiling in her obituary. Cressida is one of the most fascinating characters I have read in recent history. I have loved her, hated her, and been indifferent through the course of this book. We meet her at 18, a quirky and exasperating girl who has pushed people away and sabotaged much of her life in confusion and anger. We are never sure who she is. Autism is a theory in the book and in the mind of the reader. Sometimes I felt I would be one who understood her, sometimes I felt as if I would have slapped her.

Cressida has disappeared, and in the course of this extraordinary novel, the author traces the minds and actions of her family and of her sister's one time fiancé and present chief suspect of homicide. The depictions of grief are so realistic and deft as to tear at the reader. The mosaic of characters is deft and beautiful.

I am tempted to deduct a star for the sometimes indulgent discussions of the damage on America in its wars and in its prisons. The case is well made however, "wars are monstrous, and made monsters of those who waged it. In time, civilians would become monstrous." Just so the prison system making keeper and prisoner both less human. Brett, the veteran and chief suspect, is depicted in excruciating revelation. Sometimes his inner tumult does drag a bit too long, but masterful nonetheless.

Joyce Carol Oates is often difficult to read. Emotions are raw, the landscape is bleak. All that said, her books are meticulously crafted, and this one is often lyrical. I invite you to encounter Cressida as a meeting well made.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 24, 2014 9:24:44 PM PDT
Carthage is the first Oates novel I've read. Apparently there are readers who love this author's work, but if this represents the culmination of her writing career to date, I don't understand the appeal. If I relied on this review to decide whether or not I would read this book, I would anticipate a satisfying literary experience. It wasn't.

Oates employs so much slow, unnecessary repetition in an effort to establish character, so much telling without showing, that it is not only difficult to read, it's a slog. Can any writing be masterful if it drags? I didn't find the emotions raw; I found them forced and overly dramatic, leading to characters who aren't even likable. Add an irritating and insistent use of italics and "quotation marks", and I think you'll find this novel to be far from extraordinary.

In reply to an earlier post on May 27, 2014 12:33:30 PM PDT
debra crosby says:
I've read several Joyce Carol Oates novels and they do vary in structure and emotional impact, in my opinion. I like her short stories, but some are better than others. She is an unsual and prolific writer and sometimes I think she rests on her laurels and needs some tough editing, but who will do that? We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde (although there are plenty of folks who didn't like this one, I loved it) are my two favorites of her novels. I just read The Accursed and liked it, but it's very weird and also could use some editing. If you can open up to her a bit, you might like some of her books. But she is unlike any other writer. She's who she is -- love her or hate her.
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