David's Reviews > The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

The Museum of Dr. Moses by Joyce Carol Oates
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's review
Jun 20, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: read-in-2009, hideously-vile-protagonists
Read in June, 2009

Dear Ms Oates:

WHY DO YOU LIKE SERIAL KILLERS SO MUCH? You don't know me, but I've been aware of you for years. I knew that you were out there, amassing that massive oeuvre of yours. Racking up all that critical acclaim. I'd lose track of you for a few months and, next thing I knew, there you'd be yet again. Plastered across the New York Times book section. With three more books to your credit. The Jenna Jameson of the literary set.

It all just seemed a bit overwhelming to me. For years I was convinced that you were a syndicate, perhaps some combination of


Anyway, last weekend I stumbled across this collection of “Tales of Mystery and Suspense” that you published in 2007. The price was right (marked down to $5.98). From the dustjacket it seems like this is the fifth such collection that you’ve written.

So, credit where credit is due, Ms Oates. You surely got some mad writing skilz. From a technical point of view, the ten stories in this collection are ridiculously impressive (OK, except for that 60-page boxing story which it’s a safe bet that nobody actually finished). That unreliable narrator in “Suicide Watch”, the creepy atmospherics of “The Museum of Dr. Moses” – brilliant execution, I gotta admit.

But you know what, Ms Oates? I wouldn’t recommend this collection to my worst enemy. These stories were uniformly ugly, brutal and twisted. They disturbed me, but only because I don’t understand what kind of author would feel the need to write so many of them (well, actually, I do – the same kind of author that is fascinated by the ritualized brutality of boxing). I mean, yeah, the first story where you put yourself so convincingly in the mind of the serial killer – sure, that’s impressive. But, over and over again – it has all the entertainment value of watching a 70-year old contorsionist shoot ping-pong balls out of her vagina. I mean, you're nearly 70 years old - and this is what you think is worth writing about? Serial Killers?

“Tales of Mystery and Suspense” is a serious misnomer. There’s no mystery at all about these stories, except perhaps why someone with a writing talent as incandescent as the author’s should use it to write stories that are essentially nothing more than snuff porn. Even Jenna J. wouldn’t stoop this low.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take a very long shower.

Maybe you should consider going on a nice relaxing cruise, Ms Oates? Or helping out at your local senior center?
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David Cerruti I nominate the anagram "A Cajoler's Coyote".
Regarding your gentlemanly comment "you're nearly 70 years old", GR lists her birth year as 1938.

Looking forward to your next reviews.

Paul Bryant Damn, you just made me want to read this.

message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica David G, did you ever read her Jeffrey Dahmer novel? Zombie I think it's called. I only read an excerpt. very disturbing, to say the least.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Maybe you should consider going on a nice relaxing cruise, Ms Oates? Or helping out at your local senior center?

hahahahah that's a great line! hahahahaha

JCO scares me with her profligate output.

message 5: by Jessica (new)

Jessica she is always writing.
I met her once and you could see her writing in her head as we spoke.
She'd been chauffered up to CT for the conference where I met her and had sat in the back so she could write during the drive...

message 6: by Jen (new)

Jen Shooting ping pong balls out of the vagina will be featured on the next reality show. Ratings will be high. Higher than watching two people with bad hair fight and then divorce.

message 7: by Manny (new)

Manny Loved the review, but I evidently know even less about porn than I thought I did... I was under the impression that the fragrant Ms. Jameson was famous for being extremely picky about which movies she appeared in, and making very few of them. Is this 180 degrees wrong then?

I'm not even going to ask about the ping-pong balls. Though I am reminded of a scene with Winona Ryder in South Park: The Movie. I think it's just before Bill Gates is shot by the Army general.

Mags Everything you said was what makes all her pieces very brilliant. Haha.

David Margarette wrote: "Everything you said was what makes all her pieces very brilliant. Haha."

With all due respect, I think reasonable people might agree to differ on that point. I do feel I should read more of her work, though - is there any of her books that you would particularly recommend, Margarette. (Or anyone else?)

Of course, by the time anyone actually makes a recommendation, she will likely have added another three books to her catalog....

message 10: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Bryant My choice : What I Lived For. A big novel and completely brilliant. I've reviewed it.

Aiàlamode I find these tales moderately suspenseful and and very light on the mystery. Psycho-killer lit is fascinating in that twisted way in small doses but I think I'll put this on hold for another one of her books, like "Blonde", her fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe, which the author herself considers one of her best. The gothic-lover in me also wants to read "Bellefleur", though the description "magical surrealism" tends to scare me away.

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