Title: Sourland: Stories
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Genre: Literary Fiction. Short Stories
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In this collection of sixteen previously published but uncollected short stories, Joyce Carol Oates explores themes such as death, violence, and loss.
I know that Joyce Carol Oates is the queen of short stories. She has released countless short story collections and is the person that often comes to mind when discussing this format. Therefore, I am almost ashamed to admit that, despite my love of literary fiction, I’ve never actually read any of Oates’ short stories. Sure, I’ve read one of her novels, Little Bird of Heaven, but since I don’t read short stories very often, I haven’t picked up any of her collections.
I rectified that with Sourland: Stories and I definitely saw what I’ve been missing. This collection revolves around the themes of loss and violence, and how the two are interconnected. Whether it’s being punished for your dead husband’s decisions or being found alluring because, not in spite of, your amputated limbs, Oates writes lyrically and deftly about loss. But there’s also the violence that comes with loss – the necessity to do something drastic in order to feel through the numbness after a loved one’s death, or the way a mother’s witnessing of a stabbing might affect her daughter. These stories come together to explore these themes and beautifully expose the cruel side of human nature and the darkness within relationships.
Oates’ writing is melodic, a feast for tired eyes. Her gorgeous prose makes these stories about difficult subjects easy to read. Her descriptions are generous and vivid; the reader is able to picture these characters in their minds. She really understands the human psyche and isn’t afraid to explore its darker sides through her prose.
Sourland: Stories sounds like a depressing collection, but it really isn’t. Oates’ meditations on relationships are worth reading, and her thoughts on violence and loss will leave the reader contemplating long after the last pages are turned. If you haven’t read any of Oates’ stories before, this is a great place to start – my curiosity is certainly piqued and I’m eager to consume more. If you’re a fan of Oates, then this book is a no-brainer – definitely don’t hesitate to pick it up.