Friday, January 21, 2005

Give Me Your Heart

"Give Me Your Heart" by Joyce Carol Oates, Dangerous Women Edited by Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press, Trade Paperback, $13.95

This story takes the form of a letter, a letter from a woman scorned. This woman has a lot of patience and a long memory, twenty-three years, nine months, and eleven days long to be exact.

The recipient of the letter had an affair with this woman when she was a 19 year-old innocent. After dumping her, his path diverged from hers, but now they've come together again.

In the letter the scorned woman reveals that she knows a lot about this man's current life. The tone is decidedly threatening, but as she points out herself there is nothing actionable in it. If he takes it to the police they will simply tell him that they can't do anything about it, never mind that this woman is obviously watching him.

The good part of this story is how Ms. Oates makes the letter so threatening yet so innocuous at the same time. If I ever need to write a threatening letter to someone, I'm going to use this story as a guide.

The bad parts of this story are the fact that it is twice as long as it should be and that there is no resolution. In spite of Ms. Oates' unquestioned skill as a writer, this story just goes on and on and on and on. Even Shakespeare was boring sometimes.

Unfortunately the story just kind of fizzles out, though given the form I don't know how it could have been different. Not every story has to have all the loose threads tied up, but I prefer those that have a firm resolution. You may travel a different path.

In short, disappointing.


At 7:37 AM, Blogger Megan said...

I've had similar feelings about other stories by Oates (haven't read Dangerous Women so I can't speak to this one). I've started approaching her stories as an immersion experience, without the expectation of clarity or resolution. That means I'm less often in the mood to read her, but when I do I end up feeling happier about it.

At 6:18 AM, Blogger Bob said...

This is the first of her stories I've read in a very long time. If this one is typical, it might be a very long time before I read another. I just have to have something more than pretty language.

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