While I’ve never been a huge Joyce Carol Oates fan, I respect her for her amazing productivity more than anything else. But recently I picked up a collection of her short stories, “Small Avalanches.” I bought it because Oates’ stories and novels are often about young women and teenage girls, and I thought that since I sometimes write about young women and teenage girls, it might be helpful to read the work of someone who’s made writing about young women and teenage girls an art form.
What I can say about these stories:
They are disturbing, haunting and disquieting. They leave you worried about the fate of the main character — not because they are unfinished, but because a story might end, say, in the case of “Where are you going, where have you been” with a fifteen year old girl getting in the car with a creepy older man who is probably going to rape her. That’s disturbing.
It’s hard not to wonder whether it is possible to write about adolescence and not have the result be disturbing. Or is that just the nature of the awkward memories of becoming an adult that writers form into stories?
Other books I’ve plowed through in the past three weeks:
“Widow for One Year,” by John Irving (the first Irving book I’ve been able to get into, and I even liked it. One of those books you read that makes you think, ‘wow, this is so complex and rich and detailed, and how could I ever possibly write something so intense and textured and complicated?’)
“Wonder When You’ll Miss Me,” by Amanda Davis, the young professor from Mills College who was killed last year in a plane crash. Another disturbing book about adolescence. It wasn’t entirely believable, but it was a good read. I couldn’t put it down.
“Cuba Diaries,” by Isadora Tattlin. I have to thank Jessica for lending me this one. It’s just a fascinating look at Cuba, albeit from the perspective of an American who leads a privledged life (and not just in relation to Cubans). Also an inspiring work for anyone considering travel memoir writing. Including me.