I'LL TAKE YOU THERE
Joyce Carol Oates, . . Ecco, $25.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-050117-4
Most of us transcend the solipsism of loneliness by involvement in family, school or work. "Anellia," the narrator of Oates's 30th novel (who never reveals her real name), is denied the comfort of a family, finds education to be a frustrating journey through various hostile worlds and finally becomes that most solitary of creatures, a writer. The time is the early '60s. Anellia is the last child of Ida and Eric. After Ida's death (for which Anellia is blamed by her three brothers), Eric leaves his daughter to be raised by his cold German Lutheran parents in the upstate New York town of Strykersville. Anellia wins a scholarship to Syracuse University around 1960. She becomes for a period a Kappa Gamma Pi. The conventionally girlish Kappas are a decidedly different breed from Anellia: she is intellectual, shy, careless of her looks and hygiene, poor. Eventually the Kappas and Anellia come to a violent parting of the ways. Next, Anellia has a depressingly anhedonic affair with a black philosophy graduate student, Vernor Matheius. Vernor is trying to hold himself aloof from the civil rights struggle making the evening news, yet necessarily becomes drawn in. In the final section, Anellia, living in Vermont and working on her first book, goes to Utah to be with her father on his deathbed. Oates's fans will be pleased by the usual care with which she goes about constructing the psychology of Anellia and Vernor, but may find Anellia too narrow and stifling a spirit, limiting the larger gestures and bravura flashes of gothicism at which Oates excels.
Reviewed on: 08/26/2002