Black Water
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Black Water

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  3,589 ratings  ·  319 reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel from the author of the New York Times bestselling novel We Were the Mulvaneys

Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old “good girl” when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 1st 1993 by Plume (first published January 1st 1992)
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We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol OatesBlonde by Joyce Carol OatesThe Falls by Joyce Carol Oatesthem by Joyce Carol OatesMy Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates
Best of Joyce Carol Oates
11th out of 103 books — 33 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverA Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Entertainment Weekly New Classics
74th out of 100 books — 214 voters

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Community Reviews

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The firs time I heard about the so-called Chappaquiddick incident was in college. It was right after Ted Kennedy died, and we were talking about it in one of my classes, and we got around to the various Kennedy scandals, and then my professor remarked, "you know, everyone on the news keeps talking about all the good things that Ted Kennedy did during his life - no one's mentioned how he was responsible for a woman's death."

Here are the facts: on the night of July 18th 1969, Ted Kennedy left a pa...more
mark monday
Oates inexplicably squanders her gifts in this dreamlike, stream-of-conscious exploration of a young woman’s state of mind, her attraction to a powerful older man, and her eventual doom. The writing is poetic, evocative, and certainly challenging – which is to be expected from a novelist of Oates’ caliber. Unfortunately, despite the attempt to give the characters an almost mythic stature, the ideas on display are rather pedestrian – and are certainly not helped by the very basic, near-formulaic...more
Although the Chappaquiddick incident was before my time, Kennedy hagiography wasn't. Still isn't. That myth of Camelot stuff. I hate it. If I'd moved up to Massachusetts any earlier than I did, Ted Kennedy would have been my senator. Although I am a Democrat and agreed with a lot of the work he did, I don't know that I could have voted for him. I reflexively vote against all Kennedys, always. Because of stuff like Chappaquiddick and its aftermath.

It's a case where there was probably never going...more
Joyce Carol Oates, in one hundred-sixty pages, takes readers into the mind of a twenty-six year old woman facing certain death in the depths of BLACK WATER. The car, driven recklessly by a drunken US Senator, leaves the isolated and unfamiliar road while trying to make the ferry. From the first of thirty-two short, intense and beautifully realized chapters, we are strapped in the front seat, shoulder broken, head bleeding, with the air bubble evaporating.

Each chapter revisits the horror in the...more
Larry Bassett
In Cold Blood is Truman Capote’s 1965 effort to create the “new” genre of the non-fiction novel, a fictionalized version of a true story. Norman Mailer followed in 1968 with Armies of the Night. Joyce Carol Oates creates this kind of novel regularly. Black Water, published in 1992, is one example. This book is about the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 in which Ted Kennedy left the scene of an accident, leaving a young woman passenger in his car to die.
Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leav
Christopher Hong
I appreciate the concept/conceit of this novel: giving a voice to the woman who died in the notorious Chappaquidick accident which briefly engulfed Ted Kennedy's life in scandal. A scandal, which largely sensationalized the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in a car accident whose circumstances are reasonably suspect. But Oates' novel (or what I can recall, having read it in high school), seems less intent on realizing Kopechne's life as it is intent on villainizing Ted Kennedy or rather the ar...more
A very long time ago in a distant land known as the 90's, I was working with a woman who also liked to read during her lunch. She asked me if I had any interest in going with her to hear an author she liked go speak. I had never heard of this Joyce Carol Oats woman. (Seriously.) So we went to this huge church in St. Paul and the place was packed. I was surprised - This many people for some author? Hu. Cool. (I know - I was young and pretty darn clueless.)

We were all just sitting there and then...more
“M’è passata tutt ‘a vita annanz all’uocchie. “
Così si dice, dalle parti mie, quando si scampa la morte. Io non lo so, com’è stare per morire (e manco lo voglio sapere).
Però, se è vero quel che si dice, “Acqua nera” è il racconto della vita – “chiazze di amnesia che si allargano nel cervello come vernice bianca rovesciata” - fissato in qualche manciata di minuti negli occhi di una giovane donna che muore.
“Per l’anagrafe lei era Elizabeth Anne Kelleher. (…) Per gli amici era Kelly.”
I pensieri...more
Maria Grazia
L'evento fa parte della storia, anche se quasi sicuramente ormai dimenticato. Il fratello più giovane di John e Robert Kennedy, Ted, a suo volta senatore, ebbe in incidente guidando ubriaco, e in questo incidente perse la vita una ragazza, dui cui si disse che fosse la sua segretaria amante.
La storia che scrive la Oats è romanzata, i nomi alterati, ma è facile, per chi ancora ricorda, riconoscere il riferimento.
Tutto il libro è scritto dal punto di vista della protagonista morente, che non riesc...more
Suzanne Auckerman
This is a fictionalized version of the accident that Ted Kennedy had where the woman died. It is told from the point of view of the woman and the two –-three hours that she spent trapped before she died. I remember being horrified by how he acted and yet time blurred that. I know it was mentioned briefly when he died, but she was really a forgotten person.
A short trip into the depths of a woman's mind as she slowly drowns. With a political bent, this is a timely novella that barely skims the surface of love, politics, youth, and the possibility of what is in store for a young woman's future.

Lisa (Harmonybites)
In July of 1969, a car drove off a bridge into the tidal waters of Chappaquiddick in Massachusetts--taking the life of Mary Jo Kopechne and with it the presidential aspirations of Senator Ted Kennedy. A blurb on the back of Black Water from the Los Angeles Times calls the book "the ballad of Chappaquiddick" and even though the internal chronology places this after 1990, in Maine not Massachusetts, the young woman involved is named "Kelly Kelleher" and the driver involved is only called "the Sena...more
Lisa Rathbun
How do you keep a reader interested in a story that everyone already knows the ending to? The Senator crashes the car into the water; the girl drowns. The only way is to get into the girl's mind. Certain phrases or ideas are repeated in the way one's thoughts continually dwell on a certain subject. In that way it's stream-of-consciousness, but I found it easier to follow than some writing in that style. The girl's life in a sense flashes before your eyes, but not in order from birth to death, bu...more
This is a fictionalized account of Ted Kennedy and the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne. Most of the book is the thinking of the fictionalized Mary Jo. Much of the thinking is the confused ramblings of a liberal who substitutes feeling for thinking. This feeling keeps the drowning woman sure that the senator who abandoned her will rescue her. Typical of the lack of real thinking of the drowning liberal is her thinking that the support of abortion by liberals is nobel, but by conservatives is racism....more
Black Water is a haunting narrative of the final moments of Kelly Kelleher, a young woman whose impulsive decision to pursue her attraction to an older man leads to her death in a car accident. Kelleher, of course, is a stand-in for Mary Jo Kopechne, the young woman who lost her life in a car accident with Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick in 1969. I found it interesting that Oates chose to update the story to the early '90s (contemporary for when the book was written) and write The Senator as Kenne...more
Saleh Ka
این مرور زندگی در لحظه‌های پیش از مرگ نمی‌تواند فقط یک واکنش ماشینی و بیلوژیک ساده باشد. واکنشی مثل احساس درد که حاصل واقعیتی بیرونی مثل زخم یا ضربه‌ای ناگهانی‌ است. و باز نمی‌تواند برای همه انسان‌ها و به طور یکسان شکل بگیرد؛ همان‌طور که تنها عده‌ای از افراد عبور کرده و بازگشته از این مرز صاحب این تجربه بوده‌اند. احتمالا این مرور خاطرات در آن لحظه‌ی مواجهه با مرگ و در آن تنگا آخرین تلاش فرد است برای ادامه‌ی آنچه "زیستن" می‌نامند. یکجور چنگ زدن به زندگی و نشانه‌های حیاتی٬ که از خود بیاد داریم. می...more
Jesse Christiansen
If you don't understand why Joyce Carol Oates is a literary pillar of our times, then you obviously have not read "Black Water." Go, right now, run to your computer, sink your literature-impoverished fingertips into its keys. Now! Before it's too late! If you don't, then you only have yourself to blame, and, the haggard, wrinkled figures that you see in your final thoughts, just may be attending angels in disguise.

There are great books and there are legendary books.

The poetry of the inner world....more
This was a wasted exercise. It wasn't offensively bad, but I did not think it was good either. Black Water is inspired by the real life incident of Chappaquiddick. Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and in the accident that resulted, the female passenger Mary Jo Kopechne died. What makes this unlike other accidents is that Senator Kennedy failed to report the accident which almost certainly contributed to her death.

Oates decides to concentrate on the unfortunate female passenger, giv...more
A fascinating yet incredibly depressing novella, i kept getting the idea that the moral of the story is that basically we're all being lied to, that no matter who we look to (I'm speaking about politics here) tends to become self-serving, and will never really represent us. The formation of the story was intriguing, I was very curious while reading it where exactly the story was going, as it seemed to be going backwards. I had to read this for my Modern Fiction class, I am not sure if I ever wou...more
I found this totally engrossing. And fabulous. Sad and fabulous. Claustral. Cloistral. Intense. Recommended to the young and impressionable and those who have been young and impressionable. Joyce Carol Oates does such great work in picking through young women's minds. She does it again in the fat novel "Blonde" (even better), and earlier in the story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" For example.
No connection whatsoever is made to the Doobie Brothers song. As a matter of fact, the only song on the radio is by The Beatles...and keeping with the alteration of facts, JCO refers to it not as "Eleanor Rigby" but as "All the Lonely People". Whether by airplane or car, All-American girls who fall for dangerous Kennedy boys never get far...
Reza Jalali
When You start reading this book you think "Wow! this is good" but it gets boring page by page... the whole idea of this book is good but seriously I couldn't wait to finish it. by the end of every chapter of it I was like "So what?!?" and again when you finish the book you're gonna say "So what?!?"
Cooper Cooper
Though Joyce Carol Oates has been for many years a literary lioness, this is the first of her novels I’ve read. It is very powerful. Closely based on the Chappaquiddick incident, it’s about a young woman who at a Fourth of July party meets “The Senator” (aka Ted Kennedy); they hit it off and decide, in the evening, to go to his motel; since they are on an island, they make for the ferry. Running late The Senator, a lot more lit up than the road, tries a shortcut, misses a turn and the car slide...more
Mentre l'acqua nera le riempiva i polmoni, e lei moriva.

Incredibile romanzo breve che ci racconta la storia di una ragazza ventiseienne, seduta in una macchina a fianco di un non meglio specificato Senatore. I due si sono incontrati a una festa per il 04 luglio a casa di un'amica comune in un'isola del Maine, e da lì se ne sono andati in macchina diretti a un ferry che li avrebbe portati, presumibilmente, a una stanza d'albergo. Purtroppo lungo una scorciatoia basta una brutta curva per spedire...more
Yashar Yashmi
ستاره (از پنج ستاره) : یک ستاره و نیم

باید بگویم، تجربه ی روایت این اثر، یکی از بهترین و جالب ترین تجربه های من در خواندن رمان بود. روایت سریع و منقطع همراه با جمله های معترضه ی فراوان و سبک و آهنگ ضربی داستان، فضایی بسیار جالب را به وجود می آورند (ر.ک مقاله ی پایان کتاب) ‏
[در مورد این سبک روایت بیش تر از پیش باید توضیح دهم. به نظرم نوع روایت، بسیار مدرن است. نویسنده می داند که خواننده ی مدرن، حوصله ی داستان سرایی های داستایوفسکی یا پرداخت شخصیت های شلوخوف را ندارد. بنابراین بهترین راه حل را پیدا...more
Ryan Heaven
After reading this novella, and beforehand reading her short story 'Heat', I can safely say Joyce Carol Oates is one of the best writers I've come across.
In 'Black Water' we follow Kelly Kelleher, who is involved in a car accident. The car flies off a road into a swamp, and we are stuck with the trapped Kelly as the water begins to rise inside the vehicle. Due to her entrapment, the narrative's progression relies on Kelly's memories and flashbacks, but every detail is necessary. Oates' use of d...more
I believe that Joyce Carol Oates shows great genius. This short but powerful book was disturbing to read – so I’d have to say that even though I appreciated the writing, I would be very careful recommending it to anyone.

Based on the true story of Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquidick accident in 1969. Told from the viewpoint of the young Mary Jo Kopechne, these 154 pages were designed to replay the crash scene over and over again, each time from a slightly different perspective. I was literally read...more
Sono una grande estimatrice dei libri che romanzano fatti realmente accaduti, per questo mi sono avvicinata a questo romanzo breve della Oates dopo aver tanto apprezzato Sorella, mio unico amore.
Qui si racconta l'incidente che rovinò la carriera politica di Ted Kennedy e uccise la giovane Mary Jo Kopechne (forse sua amante). Nel libro non si nominano mai i veri nomi dei protagonisti, ma sono facilmente riconoscibili. La bellezza di questo racconto lungo è nel far rivivere gli ultimi istanti del...more
I give this book my full endorsement. Her pace, writing, structuring, and, as the back cover says, her "power of evocation" are outstanding and completely unique. The novel is morbidly fascinating and heartfelt. Its concept is--as I said--so unique and so finely executed that it should be observed. The treading and retreading of events that occur in the novel are artfully pieced together (and in a way that is also totally tolerable, enjoyable, readable). It is a quick read, for an Oates novel, a...more
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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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“She wasn't in love but she would love him, if that would save her.” 60 likes
“It makes me angry sometimes, it's a visceral thing--how you come to despise your own words in your ears not because they aren't genuine, but because they are; because you've said them so many times, your 'principles,' your 'ideals'--and so damned little in the world has changed because of them.” 54 likes
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