Synopses & Reviews
Joshua Seigl, a celebrated but reclusive author, is forced for reasons of failing health to surrender his much-prized bachelor's independence. Advertising for an assistant, he unwittingly embarks upon the most dangerous adventure of his privileged life.
Alma Busch, a sensuous, physically attractive young woman with bizarre tattoos covering much of her body, stirs in Seigl a complex of emotions: pity? desire? responsibility? guilt? Unaware of her painful past and her troubled personality, Seigl hires her as his assistant. As the novel alternates between Seigl's and Alma's points of view, the naïve altruism of the one and the virulent anti-Semitism of the other clash in a tragedy of thwarted erotic desire.
With her masterful balance of dark suspense and surprising tenderness, Joyce Carol Oates probes the contemporary tragedy of ethnic hatred and challenges our accepted limits of desire. The Tattooed Girl may be her most controversial novel.
"The wildly prolific Oates takes readers on another long, strange trip to the dark side in typically riveting fashion....Oates, who here creates the atmosphere of a fever dream, gives full rein to her fascination with the perverse side of human nature, and her readers will be mesmerized." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
"Oates is onto something with the bruised, malleable figure of Alma...[and Joshua Seigl is] one of Oates's most interesting recent characters. But The Tattooed Girl is flawed by the insistent presences of [two supporting characters] who have nothing like its principals' realness. Better-than-average Oates, all the same." Kirkus Reviews
"Oates writes The Tattooed Girl in a variety of styles, most of them ugly....[W]hen she wants the novel to move, it moves usually when her characters are in the grip of inspiration or dementia; for instance, when Joshua, in temporary remission from his disease, feels a manic grandiosity." Michael Harris, The Los Angeles Times
"Dark, suspenseful, and trace-like...Oates's new novel dances the line between the rational and the mythical....Oates maintains superior control over her novel and its mastery is evident throughout. The Tattooed Girl is worth the time to read it...[it] has all the complex symmetry of a Gothic cathedral." Sarah Cypher, The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
A celebrated but reclusive author, young but in failing health, Joshua Seigl reluctantly realizes that he can no longer live alone. One day at the bookstore he encounters Alma, who stirs something inside him pity? desire? responsibility? and he decides she will be his assistant. Unaware of her torturous past the abuses she's suffered, the wrongs she's committed, and the hatred that seethes within her he has no idea that he is bringing into his home an enemy: an anti-Semite who despises him virulently and unquestioningly, and whose presence will force both of them to make discoveries that cut to the core of their identities. With her unique, masterful balance of dark suspense and surprising tenderness, Joyce Carol Oates probes the tragedy of ethnic hatred and challenges accepted limits of desire.
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About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.