cover image Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense

Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense

Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2810-2

The eponymous creatures haunting the Providence, R.I., mansion where the gothic title story is set seem about as terrifying as toddlers draped in bedsheets compared to some of the humans in this unsettling collection from Oates (Beautiful Days). “Sign of the Beast” centers on Mrs. S___, a sadistic Sunday school teacher who both angers and sexually arouses her lumbering, self-conscious student, Howard. In “Walking Wounded,” L___, a 41-year-old cancer patient “eviscerated” by his surgeries, starts stalking a wraithlike young woman—when he’s not fantasizing about chloroform and dumping a body in the local lake. Ghastliest of all, however, are the scientific researchers of “The Experimental Subject,” in which senior technician N___, acting with the enthusiastic backing of his government-funded primate laboratory team, performs an experiment on ungainly undergrad Mary Frances that may raise the hackles of #MeToo supporters. The upsetting journey is in no way redeemed by the slapdash resolution. Oates pushes the boundary between the disturbing and the offensive with mixed results. [em]Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (June) [/em]