TITLE & AUTHOR: The Assignation (Stories) by Joyce Carol Oates
PUBLISHER: ECCO Press
RELEASE DATE: 1 August 1996
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
A woman’s lover seems not to recognize her on the street. A teenage girl accepts a ride from a stranger in a rust-speckled Cadillac. An old man is obsessed by the memory of his innocent childhood intrusion on a half-dressed aunt.
In forty-four very short, very powerful stories, Joyce Carol Oates fashions brief, intensely compact dramas out of the unwieldy material of human experience. The stories in The Assignation are infused with a “radiant intensity,” wrote James Atlas in the New York Times Book Review, and they convey the depth and scope of a novel in a few charged pages. The Assignation is an electric display of the talents that make Joyce Carol Oates one of our finest short story writers.
They are sitting at opposite ends of the old horsehair sofa waiting for something to happen (ONE FLESH)
WHAT I THOUGHT
I have wishy-washy feelings about the stories in The Assignation. JCO knows how to write with brutal honesty that can be uncomfortable at times. One of the things that makes me a huge admirer of her work is her ability to write fiction that makes me feel like someone has sliced off the top of my head and is prodding my brain matter. This is a good thing. JCO constantly surprises, stuns and shocks me in equal measures. Except she never really does this in The Assignation. I just didn’t feel the love vibe with most of these very short stories. The main theme of this collection is love in its darker guise, a theme she uses repeatedly and usually in a way that blows my mind. It fell a bit flat this time around. I’m finding it hard to convey just what didn’t work. Maybe I’m just not a fan of short, short fiction. Some stories work really well such as One Flesh, The Boy, Sharpshooting, Mule, A Touch of the Flu and In Traction. These were excellent stories. The vast majority of the others were just okay. I’ve read stories a lot worse but I’ve also read much better, many of these by JCO. The Assignation isn’t one of her best collections. I’d recommend it for fans of short, short fiction of JCO complestitsts.
NB: I started to read this a few years ago but couldn’t get into it so I set it aside. Now I understand why I set it aside. Maybe I should have left it there?