Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates

These stories will not disappoint fans of  Ms. Oates' work. All of them are gothic and live up to the subtitle. The most nuanced story is the first one, "The Corn Maiden" is the most powerful and life-affirming one. 

Ms. Oates is an expert at depicting cruelty. In "The Corn Maiden" a beautiful, learning-disabled, girl finds herself caught in a cruel trap devised by a gang of day school girls. In "Helping Hands" a vulnerable widow befriends an injured Gulf War veteran with disastrous results. An idealistic brother is pitted against a cruel twin in "Fossil-Figures" and "Death-Cup." In the final story, A delusional woman, who thinks trepanning will cure her, finds something else when she visits a plastic surgeon's office.