By Joyce Carol Oates
(Ecco Press, Paperback, 9780061996535, 373pp.)
Publication Date: June 2011
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Joyce Carol Oates is not only one of our most important novelists and literary critics, she is also an unparalleled master of the short story. Sourlandsixteen previously uncollected stories that explore the power of violence, loss, and grief to shape the psyche as well as the soulshows us an author working at the height of her powers.
With lapidary precision and an unflinching eye, Oates maps the surprising contours of ordinary life, from a desperate man who dons a jack-o'-lantern head as a prelude to a most curious sort of courtship to a beguiling young woman librarian whose amputee state attracts a married man and father; from a girl hopelessly in love with her renegade, incarcerated cousin to the concluding title story of an unexpectedly redemptive love rooted in radical aloneness and isolation. Each story in Sourland resonates beautifully with Oates's trademark fascination for the unpredictable amid the prosaicthe commingling of sexual love and violence, the tumult of family lifeand shines with her predilection for dark humor and her gift for voice.