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3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  478 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A gripping and moving new collection of stories that reimagines the meaning of loss—through often unexpected and violent means.

Joyce Carol Oates is not only one of our most important novelists and literary critics, she is also an unparalleled master of the short story. Sourland—sixteen previously uncollected stories that explore how the power of violence, loss, and grief s...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Ecco (first published August 27th 2010)
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Joyce Carol Oates, where have you been all my life? For years I looked down the long, long rows of her books lining library shelves, but never read something of hers until now. Maybe I found her prolificacy and apparent versatility intimidating. I am glad I waited until my thirties, and I am now looking forward to that seemingly endless row in the "O" section.

About Sourland.

This woman USES words. They fight against her. They bite, they scratch, they maul her and still, against their will, she...more
I REALLY like Joyce Carol Oates. I mean, REALLY. She's probably my favorite contemporary American fiction writer. I haven't delved too much into her novels, but I've read just about every short story collection she's published. She's amazing.

That said, I could not finish this book. The stories have Oates' typical stamp: They shine a light in the hearts of darkness that exist in all of us. And by "light," I don't mean a warm, redemptive, healing light; I mean a harsh light of exposure that lays o...more
Eddie Whitlock
Joyce Carol Oates is awesome.

This collection of "short stories" includes some things that I would probably not call stories, but character studies, vignettes or concept pieces. I love everything she has done and I love these, too. If you have not read Oates, I do not recommend this as a starting point. If you are a fan, this is highly recommended.
If her vision gets any clearer she's gonna burst into flames.
Written after the death of her husband of 46 years, Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story: A Memoir (2011) and Sourland: Stories (2010) cover similar ground. A thesis could be written, and considering Oates' prominence in American letters may well be, about how she uses the two different forms — short stories and memoir — to synthesize experiences, observations, emotions and images and transform them into literature.

In A Widow's Story, the reader enters Oates' grieving — a harrowing, exhausting exp...more
Dora Levy Mossanen
"Sourland" (Ecco: $25.99) is an apt title for the latest collection of short stories from Joyce Carol Oates, which includes tales of violence, murder, abuse, rape, beating, guilt, grief and a series of relationships -- some ordinary, others bizarre -- that invariably go sour. The loss of a spouse and the complicated ways in which guilt shapes the acts of the remaining spouse play an important role in these stories. These grieving women willingly step into the arms of monsters and misfits, instig...more
Not one of her better recent efforts. I understand that the majority of her protagonists are widows and that this may (or may not) somewhat have sprung from the death of her longtime husband. I enjoyed Dear Husband more than this collection, but I still love Joyce Carol Oates. I'm looking forward to her memoir, soon to be published.
Danielle Mathieson
She leaves me so drained. Loved the amputee librarian story, the pumpkinhead rape, and the tense title story.
"All that she had dreaded in Sourland, had happened."
Margot Note
It's JCO. Of course I'm rating it five stars!
I'm going to do this story-wise.
1. Pumpkin-Head: Woah. SO disturbing. It begins so ordinarily, and then WHAM.
2. The Story of the Stabbing: Same incident, multiple versions. I've heard that before.
3. The Babysitter: Creepy.
4. Bonobo Momma: Whatever.
5. Bitch: Pointless.
6. Amputee: Really good until the end. What happened there?!
7. The Beating: Disturbing again. So she chose not to tell anyone because she was so relieved to see her father alive.
8. Bounty Hunter: I don't know what happened.
9. The...more
Sourland is a series of short stories that leave a sour taste in your mouth because of their subject matter. In the book's title story Sourland, a recently widowed woman finds herself captured and locked in a room in the deep woods of Minnesota where no one will find her. Her captor? A horrifically disfigured man from her past.

Amputee tells the story of a young librarian who is missing a leg from an accident in her youth who finds love - but only from a man who is fascinated with her stump. Ever...more
George Kulz
Joyce Carol Oates's writing in this book is superb! I love her style, and her vivid language, and her complex and brilliantly drawn characters.

There are two issues I have with the stories in this book, however, that caused me to mark it as low as I did. The first is that I found many of the stories are not really fully-formed to me. Usually you get some sense of a resolution, or a change in character, or something by the end, but these stories didn't see to follow that. The other, and more impo...more
OK, I revised it from 5 to 4 stars. Only because I think the "Amputee" story is a tough read, & perhaps should have been placed a bit further along-- after you've already been hooked & are game to see this book all the way through. It's an ugly story, but worth reading just for the insight into the character provided on the final page.

I so disagree with reviewers who've said the collection is 'all about' widows, or missing father figures etc. There are 16 stories here which feature a wi...more
Melissa Darcey
The first thing I ever read of Joyce was a short story, so her short story collections will always have a special place in my heart. I've read a few collections and this was not one of her better ones.

This collection is separated in 3 sections and for me, the main distinction between each one, was their level of interest.

The first section was by far the best section. This collection starts off with a bang. I recommend reading "Pumpkin-Head," "The Story of the Stabbing," and "Amputee." These were...more
Shirley Sillars
“Sourland" explores the many ways in which the characters find themselves either underneath or on top of a major upheaval. There are multiple examinations of the newly widowed; a disfigured child whose beautiful mother chooses a modeling and fashion career over her caretaking and cannot seem to cope with anything in life that she cannot control; a father who becomes lost in the world – and loses his son – following a corporate downsizing; the heated affair between a married man and an alluring w...more
Nanette Bulebosh
More provocative short stories from the prolific master of fiction, Joyce Carol Oates. Some of these were previously published in The New Yorker and other publications.

Like much of Oates' fiction, most of these stories are dark, depressing, or just plain weird, which for me has always been part of her attraction. Little is resolved at the end of them, but they usually leave us with greater insight into the human condition, not to mention awe at the author's imagination and her ability to see so...more
Sue Russell
Here's my in print also. I've just upped the stars from 3 to 4 because these stories really stayed with me more than most others I've read, by assignment or "for pleasure."

Oates, Joyce Carol. Sourland. Ecco: HarperCollins. Sept. 2010. c.384p. ISBN 978-0-06-199652-8. $25.99. F

The cover’s depiction of the Grim Reaper creates a sense of foreboding that the collection itself does nothing to dispel. In these 16 stories, Oates explores loss and grief and its attendant mental derangement—...more
Susan Emmet
Feeling a bit agog right now. Finished Oates' anthology of 16 stories (first seen in a variety of publications from The New Yorker to Playboy to Salmagundi to Shenandoah) during a driving storm full of thunder and lightning. I've always found Oates "right on" in terms of detail, language and character. This collection is full of women who are widowed or father-orphaned. Most of the stories begin kind of "normally" and then rapidly devolve into violence. Much ado about loss of all sorts - and sex...more
Martie Nees Record
Short stories that mingles violence and desire while examining the meaning of loss with her usual take on the dark sides of relationships. Typical Oates. Now in her 70’s she is still, for me, as hard to read as ever. I’ve always been unsettled and still exhilarated by her work. She always leaves me exhausted but yet still interested in her intensely (and embarrassing) truthful take on what makes women tick. Most of the stories in this book are on women who have just become widows and in their lo...more
Ms. Oates is clearly one of the greatest short story writers of our time.
"Sourland" features pieces of wide-ranging style, but they are all united thematically, and quite brilliantly so. They bring the reader in touch with mortality and loneliness, lost faith and regret, in a healthy way.
What most stands out in these stories, having read much by Ms. Oates before, is the subtly she purposefully deploys in a majority of the stories. She has always been a master of establishing mood through langu...more
All of the stories are pretty much the same. The lack of imaginative ambition weaved through so many pages in this collection eroded my enthusiasm far too quickly. I love Joyce Carol Oates but Sourland does not belong in the same gulf as most of her other accomplishments.
Typical JCO: violent, almost shocking (I watch too much horror for it to really shock me!), abused, often helplessly (but not always) portrayed women as targets of disturbed men, sometimes other women. Many of the stories in this collection featured a woman who recently lost her husband (as JCO herself recently has lost her first husband) and, interesting, each woman feels helpless yet also experiences the loss in different ways, mainly anger and abandonment, one curious case of "I'll get back a...more
Becca Westerheide
Sourland is quite different from a long of books. It has many stories inside of it and it didn't really spark my interest. There were many mythological stories like the Headless Horseman and I most likely wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Beth Anne

joyce carol oates is one of those authors, to me, that fits like a perfectly tailored piece of clothing. i can find nothing wrong with anything she writes. from the first word of the first story, until i finished this collection...i was enthralled, captivated and engaged.

i found these stories to be extremely disturbing. so dark and angry and dangerous. so much hate and violence. so much violation...sexual, mental. every page was suspenseful. i love her.

i am not sure that i could recommend...more
This book of short stories has taught me somthing about myself and that somthing is : I do not like Short Stories.
So this was not the book for me, and maybe Joyce Carol Oates was not the author I should be reading when my attitude towards short stories is luke warm at best. I have read that Joyce Carol Oates is a master of the short story and that may be true, I apparently am not one to say. They are well written but I find Short Stories so unsatisfying, like a salad for dinner.I know this will...more
Kingston WritersFest
Joyce Carol Oats joined us at Kingston WritersFest 2010. You can read more about Joyce and the Festival here:
Great book if you are into the characters more than the stories. I find this author really nails the emotional and personal aspects of stories. I really felt what the characters were feeling. That being said, it may not be a good thing to feel these people. It was a perfect Halloween read. Rape, murder, death, loss, grief, all terrible terrible things happening in this collection. The stories were odd, and the plots a little slow, not as good as others by this author. Don't read this book if you...more
Julie Laumark
I love the way Joyce Carol Oates writes & while she will never be known for her happy & uplifting work, these stories were, for the most part, dreary, dark & depressing as Hell. The only one I truly enjoyed was "Uranus" where a woman is hostess at a party she has no enthusiasm for & when she steps away for a moment...well, I don't want to ruin it. It had a "Twilight-Zone" quality about it. As for the others in the collection, their moods can be found in their titles: "The Beating...more
I just can't stop reading JCO. These 16 stories were written after her husband of many years died suddenly and unexpectedly, and you can feel her experience in many of the stories, especially Pumpkin-Head, Probate, and Sourland. Not cheerful or uplifting, but so real and interesting. (Not that the plots of the stories are drawn from her own life, but the feelings of disorientation, loneliness, and fear clearly are). The stories stay with you and give you plenty to think about. Not for everyone,...more
Jan 09, 2012 Tanya marked it as to-read
Shelves: unfinished
Joyce Carol Oates. We do this dance. I pick up a book of yours, and then shortly into it, I find myself creeped out or upset. I just read the "Pumpkin Head" story and couldn't keep going. Maybe this is just a particularly grim short story collection. Probably will revisit, but for now this is going on the unfinished/to-read shelf. Sometimes you just have to be in *that* mood for those murky stories. I'm no sentimental sap, and I certainly can handle grim most of the time, so this must really be...more
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Hidden Meanings? 1 7 Mar 10, 2012 04:41PM  
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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
More about Joyce Carol Oates...
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“In all marriages there is the imbalance: one who loves more than the other. One who licks wounds in secret, the rust-taste of blood.” 2 likes
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