Dark, brilliant fiction from the New York Times-bestselling author: “Oates’ spookiness is visceral, psychologically involving, and socially astute.”―Booklist
In the title story of her taut new fiction collection, Joyce Carol Oates writes: Life was not of the surface like the glossy skin of an apple, but deep inside the fruit where seeds are harbored. There is no writer more capable of picking out those seeds and exposing all their secret tastes and poisons than Oates herself—as demonstrated in these six stories.
One tale opens with a woman, naked except for her high-heeled shoes, seated in front of the window in an apartment she cannot, on her own, afford. In this exquisitely tense narrative reimagining of Edward Hopper’s Eleven A.M., 1926, the reader enters the minds of both the woman and her married lover, each consumed by alternating thoughts of disgust and arousal, as he rushes, amorously, murderously, to her door.
In “The Long-Legged Girl,” an aging, jealous wife crafts an unusual game of Russian roulette involving a pair of Wedgwood teacups, a strong Bengal brew, and a lethal concoction of medicine. Who will drink from the wrong cup, the wife or the dance student she believes to be her husband’s latest conquest?
In “The Sign of the Beast,” when a former Sunday school teacher’s corpse turns up, the blighted adolescent she had by turns petted and ridiculed confesses to her murder—but is he really responsible? And another young outsider, Horace Phineas Love, Jr., is haunted by apparitions at the very edge of the spectrum of visibility after the death of his tortured father in “Night-Gaunts,” a fantastic ode to H.P. Lovecraft.
“Consummately well-written, stylistically dashing...forthrightly nightmarish.”―Kirkus Reviews