20 March 2007

JCO shorts

I'm new to Joyce Carol Oates and my recent forays into flash fiction and short stories piqued my interest in The Assignation. It is a collection of her "mini-narratives" from the 1980's. From her afterword, she describes a typical piece as "a single head-long plunge toward a conclusion" and the whole work as "radical distillations of story." Being that she is the famous JCO and I'm merely M.C. I have to acknowledge she says it better than I do. Some of the stories ("The Bystander" and "Shelter") have a lingering quality, the unusual characters and circumstances leaving an after-image on the brain. Others generated nothing more than "eh?" She has a long-winded, meandering style which I'd grow weary of in a novel but it works here. Ms. Oates applies her considerable literary muscle to what we might call horror, fantasy, mystery, and SF if we were to apply genre categories to the works. She, of course, has no need to limit herself, and that might be the most appealing thing about The Assignation--Oates writes what comes out, and we go along for the ride.

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