cover image Dis mem ber and Other Stories

Dis mem ber and Other Stories

Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2652-8

Greater variety—along the lines of Oates’s outstanding 2016 collection, The Doll-Master—would have enhanced these seven well-crafted stories of menace, madness, and murder. The first four each feature a psychologically vulnerable female protagonist, whose obsession will land her in life-threatening jeopardy, starting with Jill, the title tale’s awkward young narrator, who lets the thrill of Elvis-slick looks and a sky-blue Chevy blind her to a distant relative’s menace. The atmosphere becomes downright miasmic by the fourth tale, “The Drowned Girl,” in which the narrator, a university transfer student, becomes fixated on student Miri Krim’s demise in a rooftop water tank months earlier. In the final trio, Oates shuffles the deck plotwise but maintains the creepiness quotient. In “The Situations,” a father flings the three newborn kittens his children want to keep off a bridge; in “Welcome to Friendly Skies!,” a plane’s passengers appear to be winging to something more sinister than an anticipated polar bird-watching expedition. All in all, dis turb ing. [em]Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates. (June) [/em]