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Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense
Cover of Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense
Borrow Borrow
In the title story of her taut new fiction collection, Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense, Joyce Carol Oates writes: Life was not of the surface like the glossy skin of an apple, but deep inside the fruit where seeds are harbored. There is no writer more capable of picking out those seeds and exposing all their secret tastes and poisons than Oates herself—as brilliantly demonstrated in these six stories.

The book opens with a woman, naked except for her high-heeled shoes, seated in front of the window in an apartment she cannot, on her own, afford. In this exquisitely tense narrative reimagining of Edward Hopper's Eleven A.M., 1926, the reader enters the minds of both the woman and her married lover, each consumed by alternating thoughts of disgust and arousal, as he rushes, amorously, murderously, to her door. In "The Long-Legged Girl," an aging, jealous wife crafts an unusual game of Russian roulette involving a pair of Wedgewood teacups, a strong Bengal brew, and a lethal concoction of medicine. Who will drink from the wrong cup, the wife or the dance student she believes to be her husband's latest conquest? In "The Sign of the Beast," when a former Sunday school teacher's corpse turns up, the blighted adolescent she had by turns petted and ridiculed confesses to her murder—but is he really responsible? Another young outsider, Horace Phineas Love, Jr., is haunted by apparitions at the very edge of the spectrum of visibility after the death of his tortured father in "Night-Gaunts," a fantastic ode to H.P. Lovecraft.

Reveling in the uncanny and richly in conversation with other creative minds, Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense stands at the crossroads of sex, violence, and longing—and asks us to interrogate the intersection of these impulses within ourselves.

In the title story of her taut new fiction collection, Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense, Joyce Carol Oates writes: Life was not of the surface like the glossy skin of an apple, but deep inside the fruit where seeds are harbored. There is no writer more capable of picking out those seeds and exposing all their secret tastes and poisons than Oates herself—as brilliantly demonstrated in these six stories.

The book opens with a woman, naked except for her high-heeled shoes, seated in front of the window in an apartment she cannot, on her own, afford. In this exquisitely tense narrative reimagining of Edward Hopper's Eleven A.M., 1926, the reader enters the minds of both the woman and her married lover, each consumed by alternating thoughts of disgust and arousal, as he rushes, amorously, murderously, to her door. In "The Long-Legged Girl," an aging, jealous wife crafts an unusual game of Russian roulette involving a pair of Wedgewood teacups, a strong Bengal brew, and a lethal concoction of medicine. Who will drink from the wrong cup, the wife or the dance student she believes to be her husband's latest conquest? In "The Sign of the Beast," when a former Sunday school teacher's corpse turns up, the blighted adolescent she had by turns petted and ridiculed confesses to her murder—but is he really responsible? Another young outsider, Horace Phineas Love, Jr., is haunted by apparitions at the very edge of the spectrum of visibility after the death of his tortured father in "Night-Gaunts," a fantastic ode to H.P. Lovecraft.

Reveling in the uncanny and richly in conversation with other creative minds, Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense stands at the crossroads of sex, violence, and longing—and asks us to interrogate the intersection of these impulses within ourselves.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book From "The Woman in the Window"

    What's the time? Eleven A.M.

    He will be late coming to her. Always he is late coming to her.

    At the corner of Lexington and Thirty-seventh. Headed south.

    The one with the dark fedora, camel's-hair coat. Whistling thinly through his teeth. Not a tall man though he gives that impression. Not a large man but he won't give way if there's another pedestrian in his path.

    Excuse me, mister! Look where the hell you're going.

    Doesn't break his stride. Only partially conscious of his surroundings.

    Face shut up tight. Jaws clenched.

    Murder rushing to happen.

    The woman in the window, he likes to imagine her.

    He has stood on the sidewalk three floors below. He has counted the windows of the brownstone. Knows which one is hers.

    After dark, the lighted interior reflected against the blind makes of the blind a translucent skin.

    When he leaves her. Or, before he comes to her.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 9, 2018
    The eponymous creatures haunting the Providence, R.I., mansion where the gothic title story is set seem about as terrifying as toddlers draped in bedsheets compared to some of the humans in this unsettling collection from Oates (Beautiful Days). “Sign of the Beast” centers on Mrs. S___, a sadistic Sunday school teacher who both angers and sexually arouses her lumbering, self-conscious student, Howard. In “Walking Wounded,” L___, a 41-year-old cancer patient “eviscerated” by his surgeries, starts stalking a wraithlike young woman—when he’s not fantasizing about chloroform and dumping a body in the local lake. Ghastliest of all, however, are the scientific researchers of “The Experimental Subject,” in which senior technician N___, acting with the enthusiastic backing of his government-funded primate laboratory team, performs an experiment on ungainly undergrad Mary Frances that may raise the hackles of #MeToo supporters. The upsetting journey is in no way redeemed by the slapdash resolution. Oates pushes the boundary between the disturbing and the offensive with mixed results. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc.

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Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense
Joyce Carol Oates
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