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High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966-2006    by Joyce Carol Oates order for
High Lonesome
by Joyce Carol Oates
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Fans of Joyce Carol Oates will want to go out and purchase High Lonesome, a collection of short stories from the 1960s to the present. This hefty hardcover edition begins with several 2006 stories, and then shifts back to the 1960s and moves onward in chronological order. Oates has a knack for creating a staunch picture of Americana often at its dreariest and its darkest. Many of the characters in Oates' short stories (and novels) are violent people controlled by their obsessive impulses, which are acted upon with fervor.

Being an avid fan of Oates' works, I knew what I was in for when I opened her book and I read the stories at a leisurely pace to savor them. In the title story, the murder of a father leads to the violent revenge killing of another family member (death by bludgeoning with a hammer). One of my favorites was Upon The Sweeping Flood, a bizarre account of a man stopping to help save two abandoned children in the middle of a hurricane the children being at the violent mercy of their savior. Clearly, these are not stories for the faint-hearted.

Another favorite of mine was * BD * 11 1 87, where an orphaned young man about to graduate from high school is awarded a good citizenship scholarship to college in reality, the biotech organization issuing the scholarships has other plans for the innocent graduate (think involuntary organ donation). Though this story had a touch of science fiction (not my favorite genre) to it, Oates' style and prose pulled me right in. When I read her books, I feel like I am a fly on the wall, not a reader holding a book. Her writing feels that real to me.

There are so many stories in this book (many previously out of print), it is not feasible to mention each one. However, it is safe to say that while Oates has been writing for forty-plus years, she is far from past her prime. She is a literary talent with a unique voice that compares to no other author that I have read. I highly recommend High Lonesome to Oates fans and fans of short stories. Do not be discouraged or daunted by its length it is well worth reading and you can put it down between stories if you need to temporarily pick up lighter reading fare.

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