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Wild Nights!: Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,112 ratings  ·  202 reviews
Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Samuel Clemens ("Mark Twain"), Henry James, Ernest Hemingway—Joyce Carol Oates evokes each of these American literary icons in her newest work of prose fiction, poignantly and audaciously reinventing the climactic events of their lives. In subtly nuanced language suggestive of each of these writers, Oates explores the mysterious regions of ...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  1,112 ratings  ·  202 reviews

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Oct 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a long hiatus from JCO and then finishing her Cardiff, by the Sea: Four Novellas of Suspense, I thought I’d be done with her for another longish while. But her writing wormed its way into my brain (not a pretty metaphor, but appropriate for this collection, I think) and I remembered this title that had caught my eye when it was published.

I’ve read other JCO stories based on the lives of other famous writers in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? and found them fascinating, so this s
May 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"Wild Nights" hardly describes the tone of this latest Oates fiction. She takes her title from a very uncharacteristic poem by Emily Dickinson which first of all cannot be sung to "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Secondly, the poem's theme is unbridled passion as if Em slipped out (metaphorically) from behind her Amherst hedges to imagine such a relationship.

The books is comprised of stories about the last days of Poe, Dickenson, Mark Twain and Papa Hemingway. Oates knows and likely reveres all the
Chris Blocker
Apr 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Joyce Carol Oates and I have an odd relationship—purely literary, of course. Many times her works have left me quite satisfied. Others have been disappointing. I know this is not a so much a reflection of her talent; rather, it is her push (a need?) to publish what seems like a million books in her lifetime. When an author is churning out five books a year, the reader should expect it to be hit-or-miss. Yet, I come back for more. For all the nights I’ve spent awake mulling over lackluster tales, ...more
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Woah! This book is disturbing if I stop to think about it and delightful if I don’t. Oates weaves stories about the five authors listed on the cover, mostly using some facts about their last years/days. And she’s wicked and irreverent about it. She mad at the mens and their bullshit and pulls no punches. This was such a smart and sharp witted read that gave no fucks. It was particularly delightful after some insipid fiction and earnestly sincere if helpful self-help I was reading alongside it. M ...more
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Wow. That is an incredibly sexy poem by Emily D. (any relation to Angie D.?)


So, in "Poe Posthumous; or, The Light-House" E.A.P. is - ding-ding - (or is that tap-tap?) a lighthouse keeper. ...I'd be fired if that were my job. A meditation on loneliness and fear. And what do they lead to? They are the tributaries of madness. Like, you know, being buried alive only without the scent of cheap pine. At any rate: a masterful Lovecraftian pastiche that positions Oates as the High Priestess of Amer
Miriam Cihodariu
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa
Loved it, loved it, loved it! Especially the story about Emily in her post-human existence, and the one about Poe.

It was also great that the author definitely does not shy away from the more unpalatable aspects in the lives of Twain or Hemingway (the source of many mixed feelings we all have about them, right?).

Joyce Carol Oates is a master of style and narrative power. I'm so looking forward to reading more from her.

Also, I'm very much into reading fiction about classical authors lately (like
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
THIS BOOK IS BANANAS. B-A-N-A-N-A-S! I gave this book three stars. Three? Even now I'm second-guessing myself on this rating. Needless to say I had incredibly mixed reactions about this book and am completely unsure how to rate it. I think objectively this book is probably terrible? It basically goes completely off the rails. On the other hand, I honestly love that JCO just rips the legacy of these literary giants to pieces (#NOHEROES). I guess even though the execution was pretty bad I liked th ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oates
Eerie short stories of the last days of the lives of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway. This is my first read by Oates and I have to say that despite the morbid, disturbing stories, I was mesmerized by her writing.
Nov 21, 2022 rated it really liked it
Did you know that Edgar Allan Poe manned a lighthouse off the coast of Chile; that Emily Dickinson in real life was an odd, inward-looking young woman; that Mark Twain liked little girls aged 10 to 16; that Henry James was a volunteer in a London hospital assisting the wounded of the Great War; and that Ernest Hemingway at the end of his life saw his death everywhere?

Not really. These are all riffs perpetrated by Joyce Carol Oates in Wild Nights!: Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, T
Apr 21, 2009 rated it liked it
I tend to be much more on the same wavelength with JCO when it comes to her literary criticism and journal-writing, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect here (but then, isn't that always the case with this particular author?). The title of this collection really doesn't at all begin to adequately convey the nature of these stories: where one might expect rather benign historical sketches come these really odd, often unsettling reimaginings inspired by something connected with said author. Per ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My thoughts on the stories (listed most liked to least):

1. Poe Posthumous--Poe writes about having sex with lizard people. You better get into it!
2. The Master at St. Bartholomew's Hospital--An adequate level of gayness. Made me feel a twinge of sympathy for Henry James, which is no easy feat.
3. Grandpa Clemens & Angelfish--Grizzly and unpleasant, but very compelling and sharply written.
4. Papa at Ketchum--A small (but surprising) level of gayness. If you dislike Hemingway as a person, which I d
I don't know why, but I do not like her short stories. I have only read a handful of books she's written and I am always underwhelmed. This is only the second book in about fifteen years that I haven't finished nor had the desire to. Her writing does nothing for me and I feel so alone in my dislike of her since she is such an acclaimed author. I really don't find her gothic or creepy at all. Thanks but I'll take Richard Matheson. ...more
Colin Baumgartner
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it
This is my first time Reading Oates and I have very mixed feelings. I think the moments where this book shines are wonderful, but there are elements here that are bizarre and jarring. I read the book quite quickly out of interest, but in retrospect, I would likely skip several of the stories.

Where Oates shines here is the Poe story. She does a marvelous job of capturing Poe's style and the wild, whimsical feel of the Gothic horror genre. The setting of the story was a joy and many parts of it fe
Moushine Zahr
Nov 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa
This is the third novel I've read from American author Joyce Carol Oates. Each of these 5 short stories are very well written. They're set in different places and different periods of time. Based partially on the real biography of these 5 well known American authors, Joyce added a fictive part of their biography focused on their last months/years in life. If I understood well it seems that the author imagined a fictive end of life for these authors, and a humiliating end of life as if they becam ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poe withdraws to an isolated lighthouse. Dickinson sort-of lives again. Twain fears his friendships might be misunderstood. James volunteers in a wartime hospital. Hemingway is his awful self, but old and in Idaho. (I don't like Hemingway.)
5 stories, very different in topic and tone, all with at least an undertone of human-nature-awfulness. I liked 4 of them, so 4 stars it is. (Is it unfair to deduct points for not liking the Hemingway story exactly because it read so convincingly like some
May 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
My favorite by far was the story about Dickinson. The one about Hemingway is genius because Oates mimics his style perfectly. The others are good, but not great.
Aabha Sharma
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Oates knows that authors are the rock star celebrities to people who read, and she is a kind of literary E!inside giving us some dirt and gossip, mostly just made up. It’s still good though.
TS S. Fulk
Oct 11, 2022 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the Dickinson and James stories. Twain was just creepy. Poe and Hemingway boring.
Nov 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Joyce Carol Oates. Wild Nights! New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

I’m not a big fan of Oates, but I did think Blackwater was brilliant and haunting, even though it was probably one of her shortest works. In Blackwater, Oates imagines the last moments of Mary Jo Kopechne (July 26, 1940 – July 18, 1969), who died in a car driven by Senator Ted Kennedy on Chappaquiddick Island. (I have nothing written about it so my guess is that I read it before I started keeping a book journal.) Wild Nights! has a hi
My three star rating is a compromise. In many ways, Wild Nights! is brilliant. Oates' uses biographical and autobiographical material as well as the various authors' writings to create five unsettling short stories. Told from the point of view of the writers - Mark Twain, Henry James and Ernest Hemingway, the stories, set near the end of the authors' lives, document their failing powers, their disappointments and their despair. "Poe Posthumous, Or, The Light-House" begins the day of Edgar Allan ...more
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was really disappointed with this one. Part of it is my fault, because I thought (from the title) that this was a nonfiction book about the listed authors’ final days. Instead it’s a fictional short story collection with Oates’ imagined accounts of their later days.

Each of the five stories deals with one author. Poe’s story never seemed very focused to me. Twain’s story was incredibly creepy and I wasn’t a fan. I’m hoping Oates doesn’t believe he was actually like the way she wrote him, becau
Steven Peterson
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Joyce Carol Oates notes where the title for this volume comes from, as she quotes verse from Emily Dickinson:

"Wild Nights--Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!"

This is a book, as the subtitle indicates, about the "Last days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway." As such, there is considerable idiosyncrasy and fantasy here. Poe's and Dickinson's last days, of course, were nothing as portrayed here. However, each short story does capture something of their mi
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is definitely an experiment (Joyce Carol Oates writes stories of five American authors in their own styles), but it never feels like an academic exercise. An excellent reminder of how imitation (or homage) can be done best by the observant writer. She plays around with the idea of the public author - that person the public believes they possess, and the private self, whoever that may be. The voices she creates resonate, but I'm always wondering about the real - a hazard in this type of ...more
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
wild indeed! what's crazy is that jco opens this book with a story about the last days of ea poe, and i was also reading, "the poe shadow" by matthew pearl. i didn't really pay attention to what the subject of the novel was about, i just chose it because it was the only jco novel that i hadn't yet read on the shelf at my local library. imagine my surprise when i am catapulted into the dark days of poe, slowly going crazy while manning a lonely lighthouse.

jco does something really great here; not
Brian Palmer
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
Books about authors -- or their near-replicas -- written in their styles. I will give fair warning: every single story in this collection disturbed me. It opens with some of the romantic horror of Edgar Allen Poe -- this, while the most classical horror piece present, actually was the least disturbing, because it was over the top. But the setting is impeccable -- I'm sure the next time I wander a lonesome beach, my thoughts will turn to this a-historical vision of Poe's final days.

Emily Dickinso
Robert Paul Olsen
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have to say I was disappointed in this book, I felt as though she tapped into the style of each writer and that she has her own ideas, but I just didn't like the way the stories came across, nothing wrong with morbid, but I thought of these writers as being more cerebral. ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Oates is the consummate voyeur, whether she's exploring the worlds of murderers, dysfunctional teens, or alienated women. Here, in this sordid look at literary greats, each with his or her damaged psyche, she reimagines their final days. Most critics lauded Oates's ability to imitate the distinctive styles of the writers

Joanna Folger
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it

Joyce Carol Oates is a beast. Not only does she dazzle in her own style; here she also dazzles in the styles of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway. Her audacity would be annoying if she wasn't so good. Very enjoyable read.
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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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