You Must Remember This (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
“As Time Goes By,” a popular song of the 1950’s, serves as a motif for the eighteenth of Joyce Carol Oates’s extraordinary novels and provides its title as well: The opening words of the song are “You must remember this.” One of the favorite songs of the protagonist, Enid Maria Stevick, “As Time Goes By” is playing the first time her uncle Felix notices Enid and dances with her at a family wedding. In this narrative, there are many lovers; there are “hearts full of passion, jealousy, and hate”; certainly, life as seen by the Stevicks is “a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die.” The novel’s real subject, however—time and its effects—is indicated by the lines that close the first verse; “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”
The most important lovers in this novel of the Stevick family are Enid Maria and Felix. Their passionate, obsessive affair provides the focus for the second of the novel’s three sections, “Romance.” Other lovers of importance include the compassionate Warren, Enid’s older brother (who falls in love with a woman he rescues from the roof of his rooming house), and Lyle, the father of the Stevick family, whose resurgence of love for his wife Hannah provides the epilogue’s closing scene and the novel’s most effective meditation on time.
Love and time are not...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Creighton, Joanne V. Joyce Carol Oates: Novels of the Middle Years. New York: Twayne, 1992. Creighton presents the first critical study of the novels Oates published between 1977 and 1990, including the mystery novels published under the name of Rosamund Smith. She offers an insightful analysis of You Must Remember This.
Daly, Brenda. Lavish Self-Divisions: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996. An excellent study that argues that the “father-identified daughters in her early novels have become, in the novels of the 1980s, self-authoring women who seek alliances with their culturally devalued mothers.” Offers a perceptive reading of the evolution of feminist elements in Oates’s work.
Johnson, Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Dutton, 1998. An illuminating look at the novelist once dubbed “the dark lady of American letters.” Drawing on Oates’s private letters and journals, as well as interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, Johnson offers a definitive study of one of America’s most gifted novelists. Includes a careful reading of You Must Remember This.
Milazzo, Lee, ed. Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989. Part of the Literary Conversation...
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