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High lonesome : new & selected stories, 1966-2006 /
Joyce Carol Oates.
1st ed.
New York : Ecco, 2006.
viii, 664 p.
0060501197 (alk. paper)
More Details
New York : Ecco, 2006.
0060501197 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
A Look Inside
This item was nominated for the following awards:
First Chapter
High Lonesome
Stories 1966-2006

Chapter One

Spider Boy

"There are places in the world where people vanish."

His father had said this. His father had spoken flatly, without an air of mystery or threat. It was not a statement to be challenged and it was not a statement to be explained. Later, when his father had vanished out of his life, he would summon back the words as a kind of explanation and in anxious moments he would mis--hear the words as There are places in the world where people can vanish.

Still later, when he had not seen his father in a long time, or what seemed to him a long time, months, or maybe just weeks, he would try to summon the words again, exactly as his father had uttered them, but by this time he'd become uncertain, anxious. Where people can vanish, or where people vanish?

It was such a crucial distinction!

"Remember your new name. Think before you answer. Not just, 'What's your name?' but any question. It helps to lick your lips. That will give you time not to make a mistake you can't unmake."

Yet not his name but his surname was the issue. For his surname had been so disgraced there had come to be a fascination in its forbidden sound. The elided consonants and vowels, the lift of its final syllable, an expression of (possibly mocking) surprise like an arched eyebrow. In private, in his secret places, he spoke the forbidden name aloud in mimicry of newscasters who gave to it an air of intrigue and reproach. Sometimes in his bed at night in his new room in his grandparents' house he pressed his face deeply into the pillow and spoke the forbidden name, each syllable equally and defiantly stressed -- Szaa ra. He spoke the name until his breath ran out and his lungs ached and through his body raced a half--pleasurable panic that he would smother.

A pillow. Where his mouth was, wet with saliva. Where his teeth gnawed. A pillow is a comforting thing when your head rests on it, but if a pillow is pressed against your face, if you are lying on your back and a pillow is pressed against your face, you could not summon the strength to push it away and save yourself.

"YES. We've moved out of state."

Before even the impeachment hearings his mother had filed for divorce from their father. But before even she'd filed for divorce she'd moved them -- Emily, Philip, herself -- into her parents' big stone house overlooking the Hudson River at Nyack, New York.

Now it was a drive of several hours to the old house in Trenton, overlooking the Delaware River. On the map, it was really not very far but there was an air of distance and finality in his mother's frequently repeated words: "Out of state."

Out of state caught in Philip's mind, uttered in his mother's breathless yet adamant voice. As you might say out of space, out of time.

Out of danger, out of harm.

Out of toxic contagion.

In this new state it was essential to have a new name. To replace and nullify the old, disgraced name. Quickly! -- before Emily and Philip were enrolled in their new schools.

"Yes, we think it's best. Separate schools."

Private day schools. Nyack Academy for Emily, who was fifteen and in her second year of high school, Edgerstoune School for Philip, who would be thirteen in August, and would enter eighth grade. In New Jersey both children had gone to the Pennington Academy, in a northern Trenton suburb. Sometimes their mother drove them to school, sometimes one of their father's assistants. There was a private bus provided by the school, of the identical bright--pumpkin hue of public school buses but only one--third the size. Riding on this bus, they'd never sat together and acknowledged each other only politely, with diffident smiles.

For a few weeks during the impeachment hearings they'd continued to attend the Pennington Academy, but when criminal charges were brought against their father and the impeachment hearings ceased, their mother had removed them from school.

"It has to be done. They can't be made to suffer for him. They are only children."

In Nyack, it soon became official: they had a new name.

Where Szaara had been, now there was Hudgkins.

Where Philip Szaara had been, now there was Philip Hudgkins.

Where Emily Szaara had been, now there was Emily Hudgkins.

For this wasn't a "new" new name, of course. It was their Nyack grandparents' name which they'd long known and with which they had, their mother insisted, only happy associations. Their mother would take up again her old, "maiden" name with relief. During the sixteen years of her marriage to the New Jersey politician Roy Szaara she had retained Hudgkins as her middle name, she'd continued to be known by certain of her women friends, with whom she'd gone to Bryn Mawr, as Miriam Hudgkins. And so: "It isn't a great change. It's more like coming back home." She smiled bravely. She smiled defiantly. She had had her hair cut and restyled and she had a new way of clasping, at waist level, her shaky left hand in her more forceful right hand, as a practiced tennis player might clasp a racket.

"I mean, it is coming home. Where we belong."


You might have thought that "Spider Boy" was in playful reference to the comic strip/movie superhero "-Spider--man" but in fact Philip had no interest in Spider--man as he had no interest in the comics, action films and video games that so captivated other boys.

" 'Spider Boy.' "

It was a way of evoking the haunting and powerful presence that existed now entirely in memory. Except for a single memento (smelly, ugly, of a clumsy size and in no way to be mistaken for something of Philip's own) kept in a secret place in his room, Philip might begin to consider whether Spider Boy had ever existed. For he understood He has vanished without having needed to be told.

High Lonesome
Stories 1966-2006
. Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories, 1966-2006 by Joyce Carol Oates
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2006-03-01:
Like a successful rock band putting together a best-of compilation CD, Oates (The Falls) has compiled stories from her 40 years of writing along with nine new ones. Although from her afterword it is not clear that she considers these her best, they do provide a sample of her work. Seven of the nine new opening stories focus on families in disarray, e.g., the title work tells of the unsolved murder of the narrator's stepbrother, while "The Fish Factory" examines the extremes to which a teenage girl goes to escape her overprotective mother. The volume then flashes back to the 1960s and works forward by decade. The first decade's stories exhibit an inventiveness exemplified by "Four Summers," in which a girl's experience over four summers makes her satisfied with her life decisions. The 1970s stories are highlighted by "The Lady with the Pet Dog" and "The Tryst," which reveal two different extramarital affairs that go bad, and the mysterious "Night Side" about investigating s?ances. The 1980s stories, such as "My Warszawa: 1980" about a writer's experience at a conference in Communist Poland, reflect Oates's ability to create ironic and often eerie episodes. The 1990s stories are the best in the volume. "The Hair" deals with social hierarchies as two couples become friendly, while stories like "Life After High School," about an outcast student, and "Mark of Satan," which follows a Christian missionary's visit to an ex-con, explore themes of alienation and loneliness in dramatic fashion. For Oates fans and readers who want an overview of her ability to create a snapshot in time, this is an excellent volume. Recommended for larger collections.-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2006-02-06:
This hefty collection, featuring 10 new pieces along with stories culled from four decades, further establishes the prolific and wide-ranging Oates as a gifted chronicler of American culture. The theme of girls and women preyed upon by violent men appears repeatedly, as in the much-anthologized "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" (1970) but also in lesser-known pieces like "Small Avalanches" (1974), which turns the tables, as a 13-year-old girl, nimble and laughing, evades a middle-aged, panting lech on a deserted path. Several stories feature characters whose mental instabilities lead to violence, as in "Last Days" (1984), in which a brilliant, manic college student with a Messiah complex assassinates a rabbi, then turns the gun on himself. Though Oates's world is often ugly, she also displays a more fanciful (if still creepy) impulse; the recent piece "Fat Man My Love" finds actress "Pippi" (indubitably Tippi Hedren) puzzling over the director (an unnamed Hitchcock) who both created and ruined her career. While the lurid events of some stories have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, Oates is never merely sensational, tracking hidden motives and emotions with a sharp eye for psychological detail-everything conveyed in lucid, rhythmic prose. However much is made of her prodigious output, it's the consistent quality of the work that lifts Oates into the literary pantheon. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, February 2006
Booklist, March 2006
Library Journal, March 2006
New York Times Book Review, April 2006
San Francisco Chronicle, April 2006
Boston Globe, June 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
New Stories
Spider Boyp. 3
The Fish Factoryp. 23
The Cousinsp. 39
Soft-Corep. 62
The Gathering Squallp. 73
The Lost Brotherp. 89
In Hot Mayp. 121
High Lonesomep. 136
*BD*11 1 87p. 154
Fat Man My Lovep. 173
Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appearp. 188
The 1960s
Upon the Sweeping Floodp. 195
At the Seminaryp. 213
In the Region of Icep. 231
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?p. 249
How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Corrections, and Began My Life Over Againp. 267
Four Summersp. 284
The 1970s
Small Avalanchesp. 307
Concerning the Case of Bobbie T.p. 320
The Trystp. 339
The Lady with the Pet Dogp. 353
The Deadp. 373
The 1980s
Last Daysp. 409
My Warszawa: 1980p. 431
Our Wallp. 484
Raven's Wingp. 494
Golden Glovesp. 504
Manslaughterp. 519
Nairobip. 533
The 1990s
Heatp. 543
The Knifep. 557
The Hairp. 573
The Swimmersp. 589
Will You Always Love Me?p. 608
Life After High Schoolp. 629
Mark of Satanp. 646
Afterwordp. 661
Acknowledgmentsp. 663
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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