Haunted: Tales Of the Grotesque by Joyce Carole Oates – A Book Review

I really looked forward to reading this collection of short stories.  I love well-crafted, gothic tales, and from what I’d heard, Oates, an author I’d never before read, is something of a master.  Sadly, nothing about Haunted indicated as such.

First of all, I’m all for leaving a story off in such a manner that the reader has to work a bit to connect the dots.  However, if the author does not give enough information for the reader to conceptualize a logical ending, well, what’s the point?  Oates started each of her stories interestingly enough, but then they trailed off into oblivion with the ending coming abruptly and disappointingly. 

Secondly, I found Oates’ style in this collection to be careless at best.  Her sentences lacked punctuation to the point that they were sometimes indecipherable.  There were moments when her sentences didn’t even make sense.  While this sort of thing is common in experimental writing, Haunted did not strike me as hoping to achieve an experimental tag. 

I will say that the most enjoyable aspect of the book for me was the afterword.  Here Oates went on an impressive, fascinating, and well-written explanation of what gothic writing is, who its masters are, and what purpose it serves.  Really, really good stuff.

Haunted has not turned me off from Oates.  I’ve heard too many good things about her to avoid giving her a second chance.  However, for me, she’s got a great deal of ground to make up.