Give Me Your Heart by Joyce Carol Oates
("Tales of Mystery and Suspense")
Joyce Carol Oates has as much pure writing talent as any American writer going. Oates is a master with words. She's observant. She comes up with the occasional surprising insight, expressed in a perfectly concise way. Her problem is the "More Is Less" syndrome, which we see in the rock n' roll field with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Paul McCartney, Bono, and, well, everybody except Neil Young and rock artists who conveniently died.
They should have all retired the moment they began recycling themselves. Quit when their best work was out there, it couldn't be topped, they'd said all they had to say.
With Joyce Carol Oates the point may have been reached after the Upon the Sweeping Flood stories in the 1960's.
This current story collection provides little mystery and no suspense, but it does offer competent prose and a lot of laughs. One story, "Smother," is fairly good. Some are passable. Others are ridiculous. I laughed out loud during every story, either when Oates pushes the writing style too far ("pushes" "the" "writing" "style"), or at the ridiculous characters, situations, and expected "unexpected" moments of violence.
Sorry, Ms. Oates, but the "second husband" picking up that pitchfork-- ain't gonna happen. Not minutely believable. Anyone who understands people knows this. He'll think it, sure-- Oates's characters live intense lives inside their heads. But hey, it's only entertainment, right?
Mary Roberts Rinehart hysteria combined with cranky misanthropy and comedic violence-- this book is more cartoonish than my Crime City USA!
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
REVIEWED BY: King Wenclas
BLITZ RATING: 6.5