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Wild Nights!: Stories about the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway
Synopses & Reviews
Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Samuel Clemens ("Mark Twain"), Henry James, Ernest Hemingway—Joyce Carol Oates evokes each of these American literary icons in her newest work of prose fiction, poignantly and audaciously reinventing the climactic events of their lives. In subtly nuanced language suggestive of each of these writers, Oates explores the mysterious regions of the unknowable self that is "genius"—for Edgar Allan Poe, a belated encounter with bizarre life‑forms utterly alien to the poet's exalted Romantic aesthetics; for Emily Dickinson, resurrected in the twenty-first century in a "distilled" state, a belated encounter with blundering humanity and brute passion of a kind excluded from the poet's verse; for the elderly, renowned Samuel Clemens, a belated encounter with impassioned innocence, in the form of "the little girl who loves you"; for Henry James, an aging volunteer in a London hospital during World War I, a belated encounter with the physicality of desire and the raw yearning of love long absent from the master's fiction; and, for Ernest Hemingway, the most tragic of these figures, a belated encounter with the "profound mysteries of the world outside him, and the profound mysteries of the world inside him."
Wild Nights! is Joyce Carol Oates's most original and haunting work of the imagination, a writer's memoirist work in the form of fiction.
"In this intriguing collection, Oates writes fictional death scenes for five canonical American writers, adopting elements of their signature styles with mixed results. The Poe story, written as a diary in the months after Poe's death, doesn't quite dole out its revelations with Poe-like abandon. Emily Dickinson's end is set not in 19th-century New England but in the 21st-century New Jersey suburbs, where an Emily Dickinson 'replicant,' complete with enigmatical utterances, is purchased by a tax attorney and his wife to liven up the house, but ends up highlighting the banality of their existences. Samuel Clemens's death is set, menacingly, against his penchant for befriending adolescent girls, a habit deplored by his spinster daughter, Clara. The prize story, however, is 'Papa at Ketchum 1961,' where Oates inhabits Hemingway's terse style to show the great man going down in a paroxysm of psychoses. This brutal turning of Hemingway against himself sparks a torrent of rage like that of early Oates novels such as Them. It marks an explosive ending to Oates's peculiar fantasy game, one that begs to be treated at length." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A wonderfully bizarre new collection of short stories by Oates, "Wild Nights!" reimagines the final days of five major American writers--Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Henry James, and Ernest Hemingway.
About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of the forthcoming novel The Gravedigger's Daughter. She is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.
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