Intense passion often leads to desperate behavior in several stories included in the new Joyce Carol Oates collection Lovely, Dark, Deep.

One of the most intense and hallucinatory narratives, Distance, describes how a woman named Kathryn has crossed the country in an attempt to wean herself from her addiction to loving a man. Her range of self-deception and self-destructive behavior is seemingly boundless as she attempts to contact him in a manic frenzy. This heated inner-psychological drama directed at a seemingly anonymous person shows how the expression of love can often make more of a statement about the individual than about the object of affection. It also shows how vulnerable one is made by loving as is described in the story “‘Stephanos is Dead’” which acknowledges, So risky, to love another person! Like flaying your own, outermost skin. Exposed to the crude air and every kind of infection. Part of the reason one is made so fragile by admitting to love another person is that you might not be loved in return or that the one who is loved might stop loving you as much. This is a dilemma addressed in many stories in Oatess earlier short story collections such as The Wheel of Love (1970), Marriages and Infidelities (1972), and Will You Always Love Me? (1996), and this question is explored further in the story "The Disappearing" where a woman grows increasingly paranoid her husband is having an affair. Here she is aware that If marriage is a masquerade, there is the very real danger that masks may slip. She longs for total candor, but cannot give the trust necessary for a long term relationship to really function.

Read the rest of my review here on the site Bearing Witness: Joyce Carol Oates Studies:

AuthorEric Karl Anderson