Thursday, November 25, 2010

the female of the species- by joyce carol oates

Waiting for a printer driver to download and install, I'm taking three minutes twenty-two seconds to see what I can get down in a blogpost about the Joyce Carol Oates book I'm in the midst of: The Female of the Species.

This is my first JCO. I have a long list of authors to get into, or to get into more deeply because I love them already, and she is on the get-to-know section. (This is all in my head, not an actual list, though I think that'd be satisfying and I've seen many friends' lists on Facebook lately.)


That was pretty much what I could get down in 3 minutes.  There's so much to say about this prolific author, though, I have a feeling that even three days or three weeks wouldn't be enough to tease out all there is.

On one hand, take a look at the back of this book. It will tell you that you're in the presence of an artist, as it's  supposed to.

And on the other hand, there's my own first impression.  And it's not that I don't perceive the work as artistic-- indeed, her writing conveys a confidence that the reader is willing to go where she leads.  That's the kind of confidence a writer has who believes she's an artist, a highest-order storyteller.

Yet though I appreciate this confidence, I haven't been able to sink into the stories in a satisfying way.  It's not because the stories in this collection are short. I find Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories to be breathtaking and fully formed and deep enough to sink into.  The sketches in The Female of the Species, however, sometimes seemed hurried, or broad. There were some brilliant moments-- some of the best suspenseful pages came with the voice of a six year old girl and her baby brother.  But there were also some stories that seemed to leave the art out, so that the gore and violence was just words on the page and nothing more.

A three minute blogpost (I can't call it a review, really, just some impressions) leaves much more to say. I'd love to hear thoughts from those who have read JCO!