Re: RARA-AVIS: Hammett and... Henry James

From: Patrick King (
Date: 22 Nov 2007

--- jacquesdebierue <> wrote:
> I have tried with Oates, but she remains my bete
> noire, no pun
> intended. I find her heavy handed, trying to overtly
> push a message,
> and, worst of all, very boring. I did, however, once
> read an excellent
> nonfiction article by her. And I also recall an
> awful article on
> Chandler (NYRB). Overall, I detect no signs of a
> talent to put her in
> a class with Faulkner, or anywhere near.
> Is she an acolyte of Faulkner's? That's very
> surprising.
****************************************************** Oats often uses quotes from Faulkner to preface her novels. She has said he was her muse. I agree, she's heavy handed and some of her work is almost trite. But her best work is stunning.

Have you tried WONDERLAND, the story of a white trash boy, Jesse Vogel, who survives the murder/suicide of his entire family by his father? Jesse is then adopted by a doctor from New York State, whose natural children are certifiable geniuses. His object in adopting Jesse is to prove that a child from an unfortunate circumstance can, with the right training, achieve scholastic excellence. Jesse does. The doctor then puts Jesse in an untenable position and deserts him with nothing but pocket money, in Chicago. How Jesse endures and learns what "family" means, and the decisions he makes to save his family in a crisis circumstance, makes one of the best books I've ever read.

Not all of Oats' books are good. She writes about three a year, so with that kind of obsessive output, mistakes will happen. But when she's good, she's just about as good as it gets.

Patrick King

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