‘Evil Eye – Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong’ by Joyce Carol Oates

‘Evil Eye – Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong’ by Joyce Carol Oates (2013) – 216 pages

“Love commingled with hate is more powerful than love. Or hate.” – Joyce Carol Oates

41q5kNfEIBLThe four novellas in “Evil Eye” are lurid and over the top, just what we have come to expect from Joyce Carol Oates.   But somehow these gruesome accounts worked for me because they are well-grounded in the details of realism.

Who better to write about evil in modern everyday life than Joyce Carol Oates?  Much of her writing career has been devoted to the subject of evil in some form or another.

One of the novellas has the collegiate son of an upper middle class family leaving his fraternity house and returning to his family home.  There he murders his father with an ax.  Love can not go more wrong than that.  Due to a small amount of good feeling left for his mother, the guy can only hit her on the head with the blunt end of the ax rather than splitting her head open with the sharp end.  This leaves his mother knocked out and semi-conscious but still alive.  Later, despite her disfigurement, she lies to save her son in court.

Another has a young woman with a repressed memory of her grandfather molesting her as a child.   She and her boyfriend confront this grandfather.

These are Gothic horror stories written with specifics which only make the stories more gruesome and ghastly.  This is not a book for the faint of heart.

The first story is more subtle.  A college professor has been married several times, and his new young wife learns what to expect when his first ex-wife and his daughter come to visit.

The last Joyce Carol Oates fiction I completed before ‘Evil Eye’ was “I’ll Take You There” from 2003 which is an excellent and more traditional novel.  Since then I have tried to read a couple of her more recent works without success, unable to complete them.  I told myself that I preferred the less shocking and overwrought of Oates’ work.  But now I must admit I really enjoyed all four of these evil well-written novellas. Understandably I won’t read such of her titles as ‘Rape, A Love Story’ or ‘Daddy Love’.

I listened to ‘Evil Eye’.  Somehow listening made these novellas more palatable.  As always in Joyce Carol Oates, the storytelling is first-rate.

I wish we had a writer as adept at confronting the evil in the professional and business work-a-day world as Joyce Carol Oates is in confronting evil in the personal and family world.

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