Sunday, July 29, 2007

Books now read in ’07: 75
Title: The Gravedigger’s Daughter
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 7-29
Pages: 582

I’ll say this about Joyce Carol Oates. She’s consistent.

Her 2000 book, Blonde, a fictional hatchet job on the life of Marilyn Monroe, rankest among a very short list of books I dislike the most. Since reading Blonde I had vowed never to read Oates again. I broke that oath this month to read her newest book, The Gravedigger’s Daughter. That short list has gotten larger by one book.

The Gravedigger’s Daughter is a tedious, over-written work that’s also emotionally dishonest and whose characters ring false. In one scene, Oates’ main character, the gravedigger’s daughter of the title, thinks that another character has “a deep-sea predator’s eyes.” This from an illiterate high school drop-out. It’s an instance of a writer exercising her chops, but not honoring her character who has no context whatsoever to see this man’s eyes in this way.

What’s worse, is that The Gravedigger’s Daughter is a book in search of an ending. It builds to what we think may be an explosive climax only to taper off in a series of pointless letters that go on far too long.

Bury this book. Deep. Very deep.

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