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The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense Hardcover – August 6, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The words gothic and macabre rather than mystery and suspense might better describe the 10 beautifully told stories in this superb collection from the prolific Oates (The Female of the Species). In the startling opening tale, Hi! Howya Doin!, an overly friendly jogger encounters someone with a less rosy outlook on life. In the horrifying Valentine, July Heat Wave, an estranged wife finds a very unpleasant surprise in the home she once shared with her academic husband. In the haunting Feral, a near-death experience transforms a much-loved only child into something wild and unknowable. The title story concerns a horrific exhibit in the home of an aging coroner in upstate New York (whose behavior is even more troubling). The book's best story, The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza, about an aging boxer in a bout that will make or end his career, happens to be the least gruesome. Powerful narratives, a singular imagination and exquisite prose make this a collection to relish. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

All crime stories implicate the reader in some way--if you weren't thrilled by criminal acts, you wouldn't be reading about them, would you?--but in two of the tales in this new collection, "Hi! Howya Doin!" and "Stripping," Oates takes that concept one step further, implicating the reader by use of second-person point of view. In other stories, guilt shifts more unpredictably: in "Suicide Watch," a father ponders his own culpability for a horrific crime that he thinks--he can't be sure--his son has committed; in "Bad Habits," the children of a serial killer find similarities between themselves and their father's victims; in "Valentine, July Heat Wave," a philosopher plans revenge against his less-intelligent wife, whom he blames for their impending divorce. Oates clearly isn't interested in the usual suspects. It's almost customary, when reviewing her, to get off a crack at her prodigious output. But the care and intellect she applies to all of her projects, even what is theoretically "just" genre fare, are anything but jokes. These stories sizzle, and turning pages only fans the flames. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 Reprint edition (August 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151015317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151015313
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,473,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on December 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Oates' stories don't include a single ghost or supernatural event. Instead these 10 macabre tales focus on the happenstance of evil colliding with ordinary life. Many of the stories carry a sense of inevitability.

The opening story homes in on the bullying personality of a beefy runner who likes to startle the weaker runners in his path. You know how it's going to end and can only watch, with a certain uncomfortable satisfaction.

Some, like "Valentine" - a monologue from a spurned man to his lover - have a Poe-like feel, lucid but unhinged. From the first word the outcome is certain, but the reader is riveted all the same.

Others imagine the psychological effects of a very specific event - the change in a long-awaited child after a near-death accident; or the strange, halting absorption of understanding that Daddy is a serial killer.

These are stories to be read singly, not in a gulp. They are visceral, gruesome and unsparing of the darker aspects of human nature; also beautifully crafted and compelling.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Museum of Dr. Moses" is a collection of ten most excellently written short stories by Joyce Carol Oates. These are not happy or pleasant stories, but are tales of how evil enters life, not in a flash of supernatural or paranormal activity, but in the everyday situations in life. Stories such as "Feral" can be disturbing and frightening, and in "Bad Habits" a serial killer gets away with murder for years and his children start to see some of his victims' characteristics in themselves and other family members. They start to develop bad habits, pulling hair out and biting their nails.

Joyce Carol Oates knows boxing since she has written an entire book of essays on the sport, and in this collection her story, "The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza" puts her knowledge to the test and passes.

"A boxer who's going to be a champion is on the rise from the first fight onward. He's going to win, win, win. He's going to win his amateur fights, he's going to win his first pro fights. He will not be seriously hit, he will not feel his mortality." (pg. 41)

"Then there are the others: those who are not going to be champions. They win,and they lose. They have a streak of wins and then suddenly they lose. They lose again and then they win. This was Colum "The Kid" Donaghy." (pg.42)

I might dispute her statement that the punch remains until the end, but she says that around 30 a boxer's legs begin to go. Colum Donaghy wanted to fight Roland LaStarza more than anything, and when Donaghy was 30 and LaStarza was 31, they fought. This is one of the longest stories in the collection and one with a twist.

My favorite is "Feral.
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Format: Hardcover
It's often said that no American writer has ever had a greater capacity to re-invent herself than Joyce Carol Oates. The trouble is, not every new literary incarnation of this great writer is an improvement on the old. When she released what might be regarded as her first true collection of macabre stories with 1994's Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, it was a bold move for this woman whose primary reputation rested on the strength of her non-genre writings, and most received that book with generous praise. The trouble is, little did we know then that she would return to mine this vein again and again, and with each visitation find less there.

The Museum Of Doctor Moses serves to gives us some very disturbing short stories. As a whole it contains one passably good story, the title one, an Oatesean tale that is both believable and shocking enough to merit some praise, and its presents some lesser pieces that I've already halfway put out of my mind. The remainder of the collection falls somewhere beneath the quality of the story of the disturbed and disturbing Doctor Moses, and at times well below it.

"Hi! Howya Doin!" was as direct as A+B=C, and could easily have been constructed by a gifted seventh-grader.

"Suicide Watch" had a "lifted from the headlines" feel to it, as did much of Oates' far superior 1991 collection Heat, and while not a terrible story, was decidedly unworthy of the talents Oates has long proven she owns.

"Stripping" the worst story in this anthology was frankly a waste of paper, ink, and time on both the reader and writer's behalf.

The revenge-themed "Valentine, July Heat Wave" was the story that more than any others in Doctor Moses has the tone of classic Joyce Carol Oates, but even it was not particularly memorable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really like the author, and am always thrilled to get my hands on an anthology. This collection does not have the punch of some others. The stories are good...don't get me wrong! However, they lack the haunting quality of some others. Perhaps feel more like serious short stories rather than horror or suspense. Disturbing studies of human nature.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Museum Of Dr. Moses" is perhaps one of Joyce's greatest efforts in the milieu of the macabre. Unlike many of her previous books and stories on the theme, this book actually discusses situations that are much more day to day occurring and much easier to empathize with than are some of her most gruesome stories of the past.

In many ways, this technique brings the world of the macabre in coincidence with the world of daily life. In her story "Hi! Howya Doin!" she describes a jogger who in his physically fit and nonchalant manner becomes an irritant to others. It is easy to imagine this irritation, and how some others might react to it. In fact, it is interesting for the reader to imagine, that even the somewhat unexpected and macabre end is something they can actually empathize doing.

Other stories are even more detailed and more graphic in illustrating the macabre. Yet each of them are tied enough to regular daily life, that it can be imagined by the reader. It can even be imagined that the reader could be in that position. For example, in her story, "Valentine, July Heat Wave" the story involves a couple that have recently separated and a final meeting prior to the inevitable divorce. Yet this meeting is not like any other in the past.

Once again, Joyce's style of portrayal is such that the reader can imagine being in such a similar situation, without that much of a stretch. Only an assumption that their spouse is a little crazed. That in fact probably covers about 96% of marriages in America. Using this new style, Joyce allows the reader to come close to the macabre experience through her articulation.

The book is recommended for all readers interested in tales of the grotesque and macabre. It is also highly recommended for JCO readers in general as it is a new stylistic metamorphosis on the theme for the author.
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