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The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,127 ratings  ·  337 reviews
An incomparable master storyteller in all forms, in "The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" Joyce Carol Oates spins six imaginative tales of suspense. The Corn Maiden is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Taken by an older girl from her school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian l ...more
Hardcover, 365 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.38  · 
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 ·  2,127 ratings  ·  337 reviews


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David
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Maureen Lang
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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
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
rameau
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
...more
H R Koelling
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
El
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Mafalda Fernandes
The Corn Maiden - 4*
Beersheba - 4*
Nobody Knows My Name - 4.5*
Fossil-Figures - 4*
Death-Cup - 4*
Helping Hands - 3.5*
A Hole in the Head - 3.5*
Amanda NEVER MANDY
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
David
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, short-stories
This was a great collection. This is (at least) the third collection of Oates’ moody, atmospheric, horrific short stories that I’ve read, and they just get better and better.

Oates’ writing is, as always, brilliant and evocative, full of characters that feel real. There are no stock characters here, but people who are a little bit like you (and me).

Some reviewers have complained that the stories are too similar to each other. While that isn’t exactly true, there is a common theme that runs throu
...more
Jeff McIntosh
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
There is no doubt that Joyce Carol Oates is a highly accomplished writer, with many accolades to her credit. I have limited experience with her work, aside from "Zombie".

Certainly while technically proficient, I didn't find much to like in this book. The first story, and the title of which forms the title of the book is "The Corn Maiden", where a beautiful young girl with learning difficulties is kidnapped by older students, to be eventually sacrificed by them.

The book seems to emphasize the cr
...more
Erin
Nov 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
I found this to be jumpy and poorly written. Glad it was a library book!
Laura
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nightmares, indeed! I found myself covering my eyes while reading A Hole in the Head. What a great collection of stories.

I just stumbled on to Joyce Carol Oates in the past year or so, and what a treasure she is. Everything I’ve read so far has been stellar. And every story in this book hits its mark. Stories of evil twins, sibling rivalry, twisted teens, demented doctors... each will haunt you after it thrills you. There’s no ghosts, demons, or vampires here. But there are plenty of scary human
...more
David Stephens
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Kathy
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jane
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 brothe
...more
Dasha M
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The novella-length "Corn Maiden" in particular was utterly unnerving. I love Oates' short fiction so much. ...more
Shane
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Cosmo
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Rikke
Dec 30, 2015 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
...more
Tamora Pierce
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
The title story was the most engrossing; all were well-written.

Oates was trying to manipulate me; I felt frustrated with the cheapness of it. So much focus, in all these stories, on false accusation, on women's naivete and self-absorption. I could stomach the horror easily, but not the worldview. "Beersheba" made me so angry, and not at the characters. Because she works hard at setting her horror within familiar settings, the device of turning her readers' expectations on their heads has more tr
...more
Dawn
Dec 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
Nancy
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
This book was strange and made me feel uncomfortable. For awhile I read quite a bit of Oates, but this was the start of her books leaving me unsettled afterwards.
Patrick
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I was a bit surprised to find a Joyce Carol Oates book in the science fiction, fantasy and horror section of the library and sure enough, while these short stories (a novella and 6 short stories really) certainly have some 'horror' elements, possible mild (view spoiler) ...more
Keem
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
With the caveat that I haven’t read other works by this author, I was really underwhelmed by these short stories. I personally found the style of the first story (the book’s namesake) difficult to read and confusing, while the remainder were boring and only somewhat less confusing. (On this aspect, ymmv, of course.)

While I can appreciate the “nightmarish” circumstances as they do mirror real life (as opposed to the supernatural) and the emotions behind them, I did not find the characters to be r
...more
Sabrina
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
The stories in this collection are about mundane, everyday, entirely possible evil. They take recognizable faults and insecurities and take them to a disturbing place. These are stories of the monsters next door or lying next to you in bed, masquerading as normal, respectable people.
I found these weren’t the kind of horror stories that had me jumping at noises in the night, but that lingered in my mind, leaving me with deep unease and discomfort and suspicion of people around me.
Not a favourite
...more
Amy
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The stories in this book filled me with a sense of dread. In each, you suffer through the characters making bad decision after bad decision wishing you could tell them to stop. I love JCO and the atmosphere of these stories reminded me a lot of Flannery O’Connor’s writing. I’m very surprised it has only a three star rating on GR—ignore them, it’s a solid four!!!
Cindy Veneris
Jul 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
I just didn’t like this book and stopped after the second story. The only horror is that I didn’t stop after ten pages of the first story.
Barry Eysman
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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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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