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The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  1,409 Ratings  ·  251 Reviews
"The Corn Maiden" is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet, but somewhat slow, eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and panics, frantically knocking on the doors of her neighbors. She finally calls the police, who want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 o’
Hardcover, 365 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by The Mysterious Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sep 22, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Maureen Lang
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 02, 2017 Amanda NEVER MANDY rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I am currently pondering this book hard. Not regarding what it was about but with why I picked it. It was the flashiest out of the author’s small pile at the local library but I am like 99% sure I confused this author for another. It also reminds me of another book I have read that I checked out three additional times after reading it because of the cover. I forgot each time that I had read it and wanted to slap myself for being so dense. It seems in life that when you make a mistake on somethin ...more
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
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
Nov 18, 2011 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be jumpy and poorly written. Glad it was a library book!
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
David Stephens
Apr 13, 2013 David Stephens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 11, 2011 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2015 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
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 brother
Barry Eysman
Dec 08, 2011 Barry Eysman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 02, 2014 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lydia Presley
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
Jun 04, 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.
Jan 25, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 08, 2012 Kristina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
I've loved other books by the author, but this one didn't click with me.

I may be too jaded when it comes to horror, because I didn't find anything here especially shocking. The dreamlike, sometimes frantic voices of the protagonists caught me from time to time, but the similarities in theme and style made them blur together. I'd possibly have enjoyed any single story more if I'd come across it in a mixed-author anthology.
Mar 23, 2012 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: put-down
This is a horrible, horrible, horrible book. I wish somebody had told me that. DO NOT PICK UP THIS BOOK. It is like every nightmare you ever on paper. Believe the title. This isn't a creepy but enjoyable book like Stephen King's. This is an all around disturbing book with short stories about things you never want to think about.
Emily Crow
Typical Joyce Carol Oates: dark subject matter, breathless writing. The title novella is the best, definitely worth a read if you like psychological horror stories. I also found "Helping Hands" to be subtly chilling and quite effective. The rest of the collection was just so-so.
Dec 15, 2011 Dawn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just awful! I have now given up on Joyce Carol Oates and I really did admire her past work. The stories were absolutely pointless with endings that were more like an end of a chapter rather than a story. A complete waste of time.
Marisa Gonzalez
Jan 07, 2012 Marisa Gonzalez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I like to read a scary book once in awhile. I saw this book of short stories and was intrigued by the cover which was kind of creepy. I gave up after the fourth story. There was absolutely nothing scary about any of them. If anything they were depressing. What a waste!
Oct 22, 2011 Julie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read the first two stories and then skimmed the rest. I find it's really hit and miss for me with this author which I find highly disappointing...I want to like it all.
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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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