Heat and Other Stories
Although these stories scrape the surface of many politically correct themes in modern society— violence against women, midlife crisis, child abuse, and the breakup of the traditional family—they seem to spring less from the real world of experience than from the writer’s imaginative “what if.” What if a woman were attacked and stripped of her clothes while hiking one morning? What if a woman tried to save a wounded deer and it trapped her under its own dead body?
In spite of the ragged edge of sexuality and violence that seems to rip through these stories, there is a kind of prim predictability about the short fiction of Joyce Carol Oates. In the title story for example, two identical twin girls are murdered by a mentally ill young man, but the piece seems to spring from the symbolic possibilities of the situation rather than from any real mystery about the nature of violence. As is usual with Oates, these stories provide ample evidence that regardless of whether she knows a great deal about the uncanny world of demonic desire she writes about, she knows volumes about the writer’s craft; her stories derive more from the literature she has read than the life she has lived. Indeed, Oates has read so much and written so much that she may have finally have run out of storytellers to emulate, for a number of these stories give rise to each other. For example, the story “White Trash” follows inevitably upon “Death Valley,” which in turn...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Heat and Other Stories Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!