cover image Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious, $25.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-61316-230-9

Abuse, madness, confinement, and flight are prominent themes in this strong collection of nine varied, dark, and disquieting stories from Oates (Night, Sleep, Death, the Stars). Masterly executed stream-of-consciousness prose bolsters unpredictable, haunting tales like the impressive “Detour,” in which a woman’s ill-chosen route home leads her to a nightmarish alternate reality. In the equally unusual “Miss Golden Dreams 1949,” the narrator is an expensively priced cloned collector’s piece from the 1940s. Other highlights include the ingeniously crafted “Curious,” which details an infatuated novelist’s attempt to improve a grocery store clerk’s unhappy situation, and the tense yet delightfully comic “Intimacy,” in which a pitiable university professor is confronted by an aggressively unhinged student, who’s resentful of the criticism his teacher and classmates have bestowed on his ghastly, deliberately upsetting fiction. Not every selection may be top-notch, but the erudite, inventive Oates is always worth reading. [em]Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (June) [/em]