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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Black Water (1992) by Joyce Carol Oates


Book Review
Black Water (1992)
 by Joyce Carol Oates

  Black Water is Joyce Carol Oates' take on the Chappaquiddick incident involving the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at the (negligent) hands of Ted Kennedy.   Oates took several steps to fictionalize this well known event- she moves it from 1969 to the 1990's, the scene from Cape Code to the Booth Bay area of Maine and of course the characters have different names.  Black Water is a novella, expanded from what was originally a poem, and the prose reflects the poetic background.  Narrated entirely by the victim as she drowns, waiting for the Kennedy-figure to rescue her from the car,  Oates employs a familiar light touch.  Surely Black Water is a meditation on politics, gender and celebrity but obliquely, without rubbing the reader's face in the harsher edges of the events.

  Like many selections in the 1990's portion of the 1001 Books 2006 edition, I was left questioning if this was even one of Joyce Carol Oates best efforts, let alone worth including in the 1001 Books project.  I think Oates fits into the category of a writer whose best work lies outside the traditional novel, making it hard to find representative works to include in a project centered on the novel. 

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