As in her recent highly praised novel, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart , Oates unfolds another tale of ill-starred love between a white woman and a black man. The narrator tells the story of her grandmother, Edith Freilicht, whose secret name was Calla (with its overtones of lily-whiteness). It was bestowed by her own mother, dead in childbirth, and recognized only by her black lover, muscular, charismatic Tyrell Thompson, whose mysterious trade as a dowser (one who finds water with a divining rod) brings him unbidden to her family's New York farm. Set around the turn of the century, this exquisitely crafted, dreamlike novella is the first in Ecco's planned series of fictions on art. In it the author imaginatively fashions her own meaning for Belgian symbolist Fernand Khnopff's painting of the same title (which serves as the cover illustration): the work depicts a striking young woman who leans on a window ledge and fixes pale bewitching eyes on the beholder; a flower stands in the foreground. Windows figure prominently throughout the narrative, as invitations to adventure, openings upon dangerous perspectives, frames for catastrophes. Images of water illuminate the lovers' fates. Oates powerfully creates a hallucinatory and harrowing atmosphere charged with sensuality and destruction. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990 Release date: 12/01/1990 Genre: Fiction
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