It’s the final day for Joyce Carol Oates Week and the story I read for today is “The Glazers” – going back to her collection Dear Husband,.
This story brought the most fun to the week, at least by Joyce Carol Oates standards. I have said before on this blog that if a reader is able to see what will happen at the end of a story but still want to get there and, once there, still enjoy it, the author has accomplished something great. That’s what happened for me in reading “The Glazers”.
In college, Penelope dates Glen Glazer and makes the trip to meet his family. She meets his father and then each of his four brothers come out of the woodwork. They vary from ages 5 to 26. They all have different personalities and thoroughly enjoy getting to know Penelope. They almost crave a friendship with a female.
Penelope also enjoys meeting the men until they end up getting into fist fights and yelling matches. She finally asks the question to which she gets no answer: Where is the wife and mother? Nobody gives her a straight answer although it’s certain that they don’t have a mother in their lives.
This is when I had a good idea of what was going on. The mention of Glen and his father’s career choices and business ventures give a huge clue. However, I still wanted to see what would happen and how everything played out.
I also liked this story’s straight to the point ending which I thought was better than some of Oates’ more ambiguous endings.
It’s been a fun week exploring Joyce Carol Oates’ stories. Although, I admit that I’m glad my Deal Me In 2015 Project did not deal up this week the one Oates story on my list. While looking forward to it, I’m content to hold off on that one for at least a little while.
I fully prepared myself for the disturbing factor going into this title story from Joyce Carol Oates’ collection Dear Husband,. I couldn’t help but read this story’s background in the inside cover of the edition I borrowed from my library. If a reader truly does not want any SPOILERS, don’t read this post or the inside cover of the collection.
This is another story that comes in letter format – one long letter from Lauri Lynn to her husband. The beginning line of the letter sets the tone for the whole story:
Let no man cast asunder what God hath brought together, is my belief.
Lauri Lynn then tells him how she drowned their five children in the bathtub.
As the woman relays the events, she reveals the atrocities of physical abuse she receives from her husband, the mental abuse she receives from his family, and the spiritual abuse she receives from their specific brand of Fundamentalist Christianity.
Oates’ story deftly portrays the mind of Lauri Lynn as a fully developed character; however, I may have found the story more intriguing if I had not been aware (via the inside cover) of how it was “ripped from the headlines”. I truly found the abuse suffered by Lauri Lynn abhorrent but, nevertheless, I had difficulty mustering up sympathy for her – which appears to be what Oates is attempting with this story.
This week I’m posting about a few short stories I’ve read by Joyce Carol Oates but first I need to provide a little history as to why I’m doing this. A few years ago, I read Oates’ story “The Girl With The Blackened Eye” for my book group (Indy Reading Coalition) and found it so disturbing that I didn’t want to read anymore of her work. This all occurred prior to blogging and since starting Mirror with Clouds, I’ve read much praise for Oates’ stories so I decided to read a little more of her work.
For Day 1, I read ” A Princeton Idyll” from Oates’ collection Dear Husband,. Told through a series of letters, the story’s protagonist Sophie contacts her late grandfather’s former housekeeper thirty-five years after Sophie last saw her. She is inquiring of Muriel, the housekeeper, about events surrounding her childhood and her grandfather.
“A Princeton Idyll” is one of the more skillful uses of letter writing to tell a story. Oates brilliantly takes the well-known fact that tone can be misunderstood in letter writing (or in emails) to keep the reader wondering what kind of secrets Muriel holds and what part they play in Sophie’s childhood. She even utilizes letters crossing in the mail to further the mystery.
The secret of Sophie’s grandfather is eventually revealed with much laughter from Muriel’s letter. It’s a secret I found just as funny as Muriel did. I’m not sure Oates’ intent was humor, though. There was a seriousness in the ending that makes me think I wasn’t suppose to be laughing along with Muriel but I should have been angry and hurt along with Sophie. I felt a little as though I burst out laughing at a funeral. Regardless of how I reacted or didn’t react, this story was not nearly as disturbing as the first Oates story I read.