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Black Water

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,612 Ratings  ·  426 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
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 OatesBellefleur by Joyce Carol OatesThem by Joyce Carol Oates
Best of Joyce Carol Oates
6th out of 107 books — 58 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Jezebel's Books All Women Should Read
230th out of 663 books — 1,265 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 01, 2012 Madeline rated it liked it
Shelves: the-list
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
Nov 10, 2012 Romie rated it liked it
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
May 24, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it
Impressive, poignant. At the top of her game, this IS J.C.O.

The entire novel is about one single awful moment, where everything that splinters from it and before it takes place. Crystallizing the moment impeccably.
mark monday
Jun 07, 2014 mark monday rated it it was ok
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
Mar 02, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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
Christopher Hong
Feb 08, 2008 Christopher Hong rated it did not like it
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
Mohammad Ali

داستان ساده است: دختری تصمیم می گیرد یک مهمانی دوستانه را برای همراهی چند روزه با مردی - یک سناتور که موضوع پایان نامه ی دختر هم در مورد او بوده - ترک کند؛ آنها به دلیل طولانی شدن ماندن در مهمانی به اولین قایق نمی رسند، برای رسیدن به قایق بعدی هنوز وقت هست؛ سناتور با عجله ماشین را به سمت مقصد می راند؛ اما راه را اشتباه می روند؛ ماشین بر اثر دست انداز های غیر معمول جاده سر پیچی چپ می کند و دختر و سناتور هر دو با ماشین در مرداب می افتند. مرد خود را نجات می دهد اما دختر کم کم درون این مرداب خفه می
Larry Bassett
Jun 29, 2013 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
helen the bookowl
Oct 22, 2014 helen the bookowl rated it liked it
I was very much in doubt whether I should give this book 3 or 4 stars. I LOVED it but at the same time I felt like it was way too short, and it left me with a jumbled feeling inside.
I think both the storyline and the writing style was what attracted me the most to this story. We follow a 26-year-old girl and her thoughts as she is drowning in a car in the river near Maine. Because of that, the writing style is very much stream-of-consciousness; a writing style that I absolutely love! Some of th
Aug 14, 2011 Thompson rated it really liked it
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
Jan 28, 2012 Misha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, 2012
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
Sep 10, 2012 Alea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Maria Beltrami
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
Sal Jenko
Dec 15, 2015 Sal Jenko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Una scrittura ingegnosa, a tratti di grandissima presa. Dinamica e ansiogena. Il punto di vista di una mente confusa e agonizzante.

La trama si espande da un piccolo nucleo, limitato nel tempo: l'auto con a bordo il Senatore Ted Kennedy e la giovane Kelly esce di strada e piomba nell'acqua nera. I capitoli ripetono ossessivamente la scena perlopiù dal punto di vista di Kelly ampliandola (e quindi contestualizzandola) con variazioni, intrusioni, fioriture di memorie, assilli, sogni, speranze de
Suzanne Auckerman
Jun 11, 2012 Suzanne Auckerman rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 16, 2013 TK421 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
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.

Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Black Water de Joyce Carol Oates. Reescritura en clave femenina

Gracias a la Wikipedia encuentro esta información sobre el Chappaquiddick incident :
“The Chappaquiddick incident was a single-vehicle automobile accident on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts on July 18, 1969. The incident involved longtime U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. His young colleague, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.
According to his own testimony, Kennedy accidentally drove his car
Serena.. Sery-ously?
2.5 ad essere onesti!

A questo punto, posso sinceramente ammettere di avere un rapporto conflittuale con l'autrice: amo profondamente - a livello viscerale e di 'buco nello stomaco' alcuni suoi romanzi (Sorella, mio unico amore penso sia uno dei libri più cattivi, crudeli e meravigliosi che io abbia letto), e come contrappasso, ne trovo sempre altri che odio o mi deludono profondamente :(
Acqua nera rientra decisamente in questa ultima categoria: è un romanzo costruito sul NIENTE, con una storia i
Apr 26, 2015 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
L’episodio che ha ispirato il breve romanzo della Oates è quello del vergognoso incidente di Chappaquiddick avvenuto nel 1969, che segnò la fine della carriera politica del senatore Ted Kennedy.
E’ il 4 luglio, siamo agli inizi del 1990, nel Maine, a Grayling Island. Una Toyota nera, guidata dal Senatore, un uomo di mezza età, donnaiolo e bevitore, che guida con in mano il drink per il viaggio, trasporta lui e la sua nuova amica Kelly, conosciuta ad una festa lo stesso giorno in casa di conoscenz
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
Ryan Heaven
Dec 19, 2013 Ryan Heaven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: creative-writing
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
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. میگردی پی باقیم ...more
Jesse Christiansen
Mar 19, 2013 Jesse Christiansen rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Shawn (ThatOneEnglishGradStudent)
This is such a haunting little novella. I know Oates has a penchant for writing fictionalized versions of real events, and if this book is any indication, I'm very interested in reading more of them. It's easy to see why this book has been so acclaimed: a powerful story of misplaced trust and betrayal written in really tight prose, not a word wasted. In some ways it's a political story, but it's got way more depth than that.

I think the only thing preventing me from giving this five stars is that
Dec 01, 2012 J.C. rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
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
Jun 11, 2016 Annie rated it really liked it
Haunting rendition of a young woman's last terrifying moments. Oates comes at those moments from a variety of angles, and somehow it's enough to create an entire novella out of it in a way that seems natural.

Black Water is a bit like water (how apropos) circling around a drain, getting faster and faster as it nears the inevitable end.
Jun 19, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it
Haunting novella about an idealistic twenty-something woman who at a picnic meets the married Senator she idealized and wrote a thesis on. Against the advice of friends she gets into a car with him though he has been drinking heavily and heads back to his hotel. His driving is erratic and she is afraid that they are lost. Should she say something? Men don't like it when you suggest that they are lost... the car plunges off the road into the water. Next thing you know she's struggling to stay in ...more
Annelie Bernar
May 17, 2016 Annelie Bernar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"La Toyota a noleggio, guidata con impaziente esuberanza dal Senatore, filava lungo la strada sterrata senza nome, imboccando le curve con vertiginose sbandate strisciando sul terreno, poi, all'improvviso, uscì chissà come di strada per finire nell'impetuosa acqua nera dove, inclinata sul lato destro, affondò rapidamente.Devo morire?...così?" questo è l'incipit crudo e implacabile che introduce il lettore in questa storia. La Oates è magistrale nel ricostruire, in poco più di cento pagine, adatt ...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.” 67 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.” 62 likes
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