Review: Museum of Doctor Moses by Joyce Carol Oates

Review: Museum of Doctor Moses by Joyce Carol Oates
Throwaway exercises in schlocky-horror style says Chris Ross

At their worst, these 10 "suspenseful stories" from this unnervingly prolific author read as throwaway exercises in schlocky-horror style (the title story alone references Bluebeard, Psycho and every remote farmhouse in North America with a locked room and a collection of rusty blades). At their best, however, tales like "Valentine, July Heatwave" and "The Hunter" exemplify the use of genre as a means of illuminating the capacity of male violence to prove - strangely, sadly - as generative of bonds between individuals as it is destructive. The standout is "The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza", a series of grainy vignettes depicting a washed-up boxer in the late 1950s; a story which is "only incidentally about boxing", but whose "true subject is betrayal": of hope and dignity. In this landscape of small-town drifters and blue-collar dreamers Oates moves from her literary models (Chekhov, Kafka) into the arena of troubled masculinity articulated by genuinely popular artists such as Springsteen and Scorsese. And that, by the way, is a compliment.

Chris Ross

The GuardianTramp

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