Thursday, August 30, 2007

A walk in the dark with Joyce Carol Oates

I became a fan of Joyce Carol Oates' short fiction in November 2003, when one of her stories appeared in the same issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine as one of mine. If you missed it, too bad. Though it pains me to say so, I guess I can now concede that her story was better.

But that's the reason I picked up The Museum of Dr. Moses, her latest collection of short stories, as soon as I saw it. That and the subtitle: Tales of Mystery and Suspense. As you may have guessed, I'm a sucker for just that sort of yarn.

Ms. Oates does not disappoint. With the exception of the almost upbeat opening piece, "Hi! Howya Doin!" (written as a single, very long sentence about a particularly annoying jogger), these are some dark, dread-filled stories that tend to linger long after you've read them. The creepiest thing about them is that they are so utterly believable. Oates has a firm grasp of what drives normal people to do abnormal things, and she is such a master of foreshadowing that those things loom as eerie shadows long before they become tangible. There are 10 tales here, the best of which might be the novella-length "The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza."

I sometimes complain that nobody writes or publishes good short fiction any more. With The Museum of Dr. Moses, I'm happy to be proven wrong.

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