Listeners know that few authors are able to create an atmosphere of unease and terror as well as Oates, a fact confirmed by the four novellas presented here.
In the title story, "Evil Eye," a young woman has recently become the fourth wife of a highly demanding man. When his first wife comes to stay with them, she warns the new bride that her husband is insane, and that she must find a way to protect herself. In "So Near Anytime Always," a fateful meeting in a library leads to a boy's obsessive interest in a teenage girl. In "The Execution," spoiled college student Bart Hansen has forgotten to factor in one person in his plan to commit the perfect, brutal crime: his mother. And in "The Flatbed," a beautiful young woman struggles with frigidity until a shocking act releases her.
All the novellas in this collection revolve around the theme of love gone wrong - horribly, shockingly wrong..
©2013 The Ontario Review, Inc. Recorded by arrangement with John Hawkins and Associates, Inc. (P)2013 HighBridge Company
The story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite short stories of all time. I have also loved many other short stories of hers. As a result I keep trying to enjoy her longer works as much as her short fiction; yet it has so far been without notable success. It seems that with JCO (for me at least), the shorter and simpler the story, the better it works. It's not that I didn't enjoy the stories in Evil Eye at all, but what happens when you read multiple JCO tales back to back is that you start to notice how similar her characters and themes are. Her protagonists are usually fragile women who end up being victimized, often in a horrible fashion, by cruel men. You can see this as either feminist or anti-feminist (or neither) depending on how you look at the story. I do my best not to think much about 'isms' when I read a story and rather to focus on how the story is working. What doesn't always work for me in these four novellas is that many of the women characters seem weak and mildly contemptible for their naivety. Fine in each individual story, but a bit overwhelming when taken together. Also, it feels at times that JCO dwells in the violence she depicts in a somewhat prurient way.
In spite of this, many things in Evil Eyes worked. I liked the use of unreliable narrators, used in at least two of the stories, making the reader wonder if you could trust the story being told. It's not her best work but the stories are worth the listen, especially if you already are a fan of Joyce Carol Oates and know what to expect.
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