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The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,275 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
An incomparable master storyteller in all forms, in "The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" Joyce Carol Oates spins six imaginative tales of suspense. The Corn Maiden is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Taken by an older girl from her school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian l ...more
Hardcover, 365 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published January 1st 2011)
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Oct 22, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: disturbed girls hot for teacher, rich ladies who want to be trepanned, people who have a bad twin
Good golly, Ms. Oates can write!

I have noticed lately that reading and reviewing has become a "hobby" in itself, and I often am already thinking about what I'm going to say about a book even before I finish it. And somehow, this has trended me away from reading short stories, since it's harder to review a collection of short stories than a novel. Well, also because I guess I just generally prefer novels over short stories. But there is so much short fiction out there of excellent quality, even i
Apr 24, 2016 El rated it it was ok
Straight up: These are not the sort of horror stories that involve ghosts or vampires or whatever else that gets ones blood curdling. The "nightmares" of Joyce Carol Oates' world are the kinds of nightmares that are terrifying because they could all actually happen in our everyday lives. And, actually, they probably do happen. It's like reading a newspaper and realizing that there's some fucked up shit going on all around us, and we shake it off like a bad dream and go on with our regular lives ...more
Maureen Lang
Feb 24, 2012 Maureen Lang rated it it was ok
Although Ms. Oates is an accomplished, evocative writer - and there were lines that inspired awe of her ability - there were several reasons I couldn't give this book more than two (or two and a half) stars. The first challenge came in the opening of the novella, the first of several nightmarish stories in this collection. For several pages, I could not for the life of me figure out what was going on. It was largely a point of view problem, coupled with what I can only assume was the intentional ...more
Jason Rolfe
Aug 02, 2012 Jason Rolfe rated it really liked it
It would be understating the obvious to call Joyce Carol Oates a gifted writer. Her short stories have defined and refined the form, while many place her amongst the best American novelists of the past century. Her works range from mainstream literary, to mystery, to Gothic in the truest, perhaps purest, sense of the word. Her writing is rife with emotion, her characters capturing the very essence of humanness in the wonder and the humour, the horror and the disquiet they convey. With The Corn M ...more
H R Koelling
Sep 18, 2012 H R Koelling rated it really liked it
These weren't scary stories in the traditional sense of what I was expecting, but they were psychologically frightening. I can't say I remember reading an entire JCO book before, although I studied some of her short stories in college. This book was really really good. Again, I am biased because several of the stories take place in New York State, including upstate and the Adirondacks. I love reading about all the little towns New York has, and which I've driven through or visited when I lived i ...more
First of all, if you don't like nightmares and don't want to be scared and repulsed by the horrors ordinary people do, don't read this. Since I'm one of the slightly skewed people who enjoy reading about the darker side of the human nature, I actually enjoyed the book and most of the short stories within.

I got lost in the pain and desperation Marissa's mother felt when she found her daughter missing and her world unravelling under the scrutiny of the authorities and the public. I felt the confu
Lisa Rathbun
I'm not sure how to rate this. The stories are compelling and well-written, but their content is chilling and dark and sometimes the ending is too vague. I prefer a clear and obvious denouement. **POSSIBLE SPOILERS** "Helping Hands" pulled you into Helene's world, disturbingly and inexorably, because she behaves like she's in a trance, compelled to a horrible ending which she should have foreseen but seemed powerless to avoid. You feel like you're inside her head which made the ending disappoint ...more
Shane Malcolm
My year of Oates continues with this 2011 collection of psychologically chilling tales, including one novella and six short stories. While only the opening title story is overtly horrifying, all of them are unsettling, and there is not a single dud in the batch. The weakest link if I had to pick would be "Nobody Knows My Name," for the simple fact of its obviousness; still, though, it is elevated by the strength of Oates's writing. "Fossil Figures" is downright startling in its mix of pathos and ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Rikke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read much by Joyce Carol Oates. Not as much as I would wish, at least. Her authorship is cherished by the entire world, and I can easily see why. I wish to become much more acquainted with her uncannily powerful words.

For yes, Oates does write haunting stories. The title of this story collection is well named – for how would one define her stories if not as nightmares? They creep in, woven in silk and brocade, they overwhelm you, and suddenly they turn on you. What you read becomes som
Nov 21, 2011 Erin rated it did not like it
I found this to be jumpy and poorly written. Glad it was a library book!
Nov 17, 2011 Kathy rated it really liked it
Ok.....I love the way this lady writes but quite frankly, at times I wonder if she's nuts.

I.e., one of the stories was about a crazed teen girl luring her dead mother's ex into an abandoned churchyard/graveyard and then slicing his achilles' heel.

Leaving him to die.

What a sick mind! Really, ....there are times I need a break from her. After all, this is a woman who never had children and some of her stories are way way over the top.

Also, not in this particular series but another group of short
Jun 22, 2012 Cosmo rated it really liked it
I picked up this volume on a whim and fell in love. It's been years, well to be honest, decades since I first read Joyce Carol Oates' stories. They were assigned in college, as I recall, and perhaps for that reason, I didn't click with them. I was aware that her interests had become more gothic, more horrific over the years. Similarly, I realized in my middle age that it was OK to read beyond the prim and proper confines of literary fiction, that my soul was not in danger if I strayed toward mor ...more
David Stephens
Apr 13, 2013 David Stephens rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares is a collection of seven short stories that range from revenge thrillers to murderous sibling rivalries. Some of the tales don't stray too far from well worn horror plots, but, as is usually the case, Oates often elevates even these standard structures to a new level of creativity with her rich characters. She has an incredible ability to weave through their inner feelings and private thoughts with such clarifying force that it not only makes the characters b ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
These aren't my definition of horror [blood, gore, etc.] but they were certainly eerie and kept me turning pages. They presented the sinister side of humankind in seven stories, each a psychological study of a personality type.

The Corn Maiden: novella of the kidnapping of a young girl with the intention of sacrificing her in a Native American ritual, with a twist at the end.

Beersheba: revenge of a young woman for past wrongs.

Nobody knows my name: a feral cat.

Fossil-figures: narcissistic brothe
Sep 02, 2014 Shane rated it it was amazing
Sibling rivalry, alienation, greed, and loneliness play vital roles in these tightly plotted and well executed stories.

In the title story, “Corn Maiden,” the evil within children makes a mockery out of the police search for a missing girl. Told in multiple stream-of-consciousness voices, we get an interior story and a lesson on what leads to murder in a small town. The victim may be rescued, but she is left alienated, just as her oppressors once were, while the rest of the town goes back to its
Serena.. Sery-ously?
*Recensione al vetriolo. (Era un po' che mancavano!)

APPUNTO alla me futura che compra libri: "Te la smetti Serena di arraffare libri senza farti prima un'idea di cosa stai comprando e soprattutto farti fregare ogni volta dagli specchietti delle allodole? Grazie,
il tuo portafoglio, il tuo buonsenso e il tuo lato critico".

In questo caso la cosa che mi ha fregato è stato il nome della Oates in primo piano: adoro come scrive questa donna e quindi con il super prezzo speciale di 5,90 (prezzo original
Jun 06, 2014 Alexandra rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of stories reflecting a dark, disturbed mindset, and sometimes too much emotional intimacy for this reader's comfort, The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares is an unsettling read. From the title story's tale of a cruel, manipulative child's actions toward other children and adults to 'Fossil Figures' about a case of sibling rivalry that begins in the womb and ends somewhere inside a living hell to 'Helping Hands' wherein a grieving widow develops an unhealthy fascination with a wounde ...more
Tamora Pierce
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'll admit outright that I'm not overly a fan of Oates' writing style, but dangit... she knows how to write. Even as I asked myself why I'm reading the stories since I wasn't really digging them, I couldn't help but admire how well she managed to keep me turning the pages despite that.

First off, I just have to repeat the statement that Joyce Carol Oates knows how to keep someone reading. I really didn't like the writing style that the first story was written in but I just had to keep reading pu
Barry Eysman
Dec 08, 2011 Barry Eysman rated it really liked it
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares is very well written. As are the very well written reviews. Very. None of the stories are especially nightmarish or memorable, save one. I've read all of her work since college. I have championed her and been devoted to it. The last story Hole in the Head, is the nightmarish one because of the facts on trepanning. So if you're going in for brain surgery anytime, I recommend you read this first. And send a copy of it to everybody you know. And any kind of surg ...more
Lydia Presley
Oct 30, 2011 Lydia Presley rated it really liked it
Original review posted here

So this collection of short stories.. it packs a mean punch. I mean right out of the gate, Joyce Carol Oates slams her readers with a story about “innocent” young girls and the horrific acts they can commit. Seriously, people, I have goosebumps just thinking about the story and it’s been a few weeks since I read it.

One after another, each story hits where you least expect to be hit. From showing the darker side of charity, the immense pain of loneliness, the all-too-hu
Jan 25, 2012 Karen rated it liked it
I always enjoy JCO's short stories, much more than any of her novels I've read. The first story in this collection is a doozy, the kind that keeps you worrying all the way through. Not sure I was absolutely in love with the ending, but it did stick with me. Other stories have faded a bit from my memory since reading this is early December, but one about a plastic surgeon whose client strongarms him into an ill-advised (and illegal) procedure remains eerily in the forefront. Did I mention the sur ...more
Rebecca McNutt
I liked this book, it was imaginative and creepy and the rural setting was interesting, and the characters made the book exciting.
I am not usually a fan of short story collections, finding them a little hit and miss. Yet this collection, which contained non-supernatural horror tales, was superb from start to finish.

The Corn Maiden story was probably my favourite and the most chilling. Tales of toxic twins, lonely widows and an ambitious doctor made for a sense of continuity - each story embodied a nightmare situation - yet also difference.

I know I already love JCO's novels and this proved to me that rave reports about he
Max Fincher
Oct 18, 2015 Max Fincher rated it it was amazing
The gothic heart of modern America is examined again by Joyce Carol Oates in this terrifying collection of seven stories.
‘The Corn Maiden’, takes its inspiration from the ancient sacrificial rituals of Indian folklore, to describe the abduction and sadistic torture of Marissa, a shy young girl, from the viewpoint of two teenage narrators, Jude and Leah. The anguished voice of Marissa’s mother as she tries desperately to find her daughter alternates with that of her captors’ who are obsessed by M
Renée Dominique
Jun 27, 2015 Renée Dominique rated it liked it
This was a really well-done collection of horror stories. JCO is the master, though. There are no supernatural elements to the stories; rather, they focus on the inexplicable nature of human madness and how it can lead to acts of atrocity that take place within the context of our mundane daily lives.

My favourites were probably the eponymous novella that kicks off the collection, and the final two stories. They were all definitely creepy -- the last story, "A Hole In The Head", is not for the sq
H. P. Reed
I've read various of Ms Oates books over the years. Her talents, scope and vision are so multifarious that I am almost afraid to find any fault. But this book, or some of the short stories in it, are sick-making for me. Her novella, The Corn Maiden, braids the stories of Jude an enraged teen girl, a failed computer teacher, the mother of a kidnapped girl and the foolish girls who are Jude's minions into a tightly told Gottdammerung in which our current American society is revealed as anaemic and ...more
Pamela Scott
May 14, 2014 Pamela Scott rated it it was ok
This collection only contains seven stories. The Corn Maiden is over 130 pages and I’d consider this to be a novella. The stories deal with familiar themes. They include the disturbing behaviour of a teenage psychopath, revenge, murder and jealousy that becomes an obsession. These themes have been tackled over and over again in fiction. Oates has tackled them herself most notably in her collections Heat & Other Stories, Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense and The Museum of Dr M ...more
Tzu-Mainn Chen
Mar 22, 2014 Tzu-Mainn Chen rated it liked it
That was unpleasant! Not 'unpleasant' in the sense that this is a bad book, but. . . In most stories, characters move through the story in a series of ups and downs and ups and downs. With a few exceptions (and the exceptions feel curiously incidental), these characters go down and then down and then down some more.

+ beautiful writing, although i suspect that the light stream-of-consciousness may not be for everyone, as it requires a fair bit of concentration to read. i found it effective
+ compe
Jan 08, 2012 Kristina rated it did not like it
Shelves: grown-up-books
Read this really fast because it's a book of short stories. I read the first 3 and didn't like any of them. Her writing is SO irritating. The sentences are disjointed and repetitive and make it seem like a 5th grader is writing. The stories that are supposed to be scary are not my type of horror so I wasn't that impressed, they were more weird than anything, especially the cat one. I've heard good reviews of her writing but I don't think I'll be picking up anything else by her.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
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