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The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

February 3rd, 2005 · No Comments

As a short story connoisseur, I’ve sampled a few of Joyce Carol Oates’ smaller pieces but I think The Falls is the first novel of hers I have read. Gender always plays a prominent role in her stories. I don’t mind if an author chooses to write pieces that have a political or social bent; all writing is political. But I had a hard time with the telegraphing that took place in the first part of the book. Tell me a story, please, not a lecture, and let me see it for myself in a subtle way. I did learn from this book which is set near Niagara Falls at the time of Love Canal. Curiously, the way the story unfolds, I found myself relating the male characters and feeling sympathy for them. The female ones seemed demonized by fears, bizarre, irrational, living nightmares of isolation, undesirable. I kept reading though because I wanted to find out what happened to this family in the end. Also I recognized some experiences from my own life, emotions and situations, lived in the novel; this fascinated me. So I was captured. Isn’t that what good writing does?


Dirk saw that she cultivated woundedness as if it were a spiritual value; she’d become a martyr to her own vanity, which she interpreted as the cruelty of others in withholding their adulation of her, which she’d long taken for granted. She said, incensed, “I envy plain women. ‘Pretty’ women who were only just that – ‘pretty’ – and anything special. They don’t know what they’ve missed and I do. page 92

Of course, what had he expected? He was an adult, he knew the ways of the world. The male world of power, intrigue, threat. page 376

Tags: books

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