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The Assignation: Stories

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  366 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
In each of these 44 very short stories, Joyce Carol Oates evokes intensely compact dramas taken from the realm of human experience. "She's not a tame writer".--Washington Post.
Paperback, 195 pages
Published September 1st 1989 by Harper Perennial (first published 1988)
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Larry Bassett
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This book gives new meaning to the “short” story! Forty-four stories in one book, and a thin book at that. I like JCO and I like short stories. They fit my attention span, something that can be quite short. I like to read a whole story in one sitting and be ready to do it again next time.

Sometimes when I read JCO I don’t try too hard to understand the story. It can be just the words. The stories in The Assignation are about relationships and interactions. (So – big deal – what else is life about
Jul 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book seems to read like that game you play when you make up stories about random strangers you see when people watching, Brief glimpses into the lives of rather anonymous people. I enjoyed it enough to get through it but some of the stories were a little too morbid for my tastes. All in all, I intend to continue reading her.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Oates fans, anyone who loves short/flash fiction, the morbid, the depressed
Shelves: short-stories
Wow. After having read both "Blonde" (which I loved, but need to re-read now) and "I Am No One You Know," I was beginning to wonder what all the Oates-fuss was about. The latter I mention, the short stories (which are allegedly her forte), were good, but primarily nothing to write home to mom about. There were a few truly powerful standouts among those stories, but many that sizzled and never really broke through to greatness.

This collection, however, really displays Oates' masterful use of pros
Kelly Hager
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of short stories (crazy short, really; there are 44 in this collection, and the book isn't even 200 pages). I'm generally not a huge fan of short stores; I prefer novels and the thicker the novel, the better.

But this book was different. Instead of reading like a set of short stories, it seemed more like reading a collection of chapters.

I enjoyed reading them, but wished that some of them had been a little more fleshed out. I would read novels of any of these stories, actual
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very short stories (no more than five pages and one story is one sentence long ) from a writer who can grip the essence of emotion quickly and describe characters so well , we can feel their angst. Stories all surrond the concept of needing love, not getting it, or getting it in perverse and unhealty ways. In every story the characters were ambiguous in their thoughts and feelings,. Many stories left you hanging and trying to figure out how they might end. If you have never read anything from Jo ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are 44 short narratives, glimpses into people's lives during key moments. "Tick" is especially powerful in its examination of how one small incident, in this case the presence of a stubborn arachnid, can cause someone to alter their life's trajectory. In typical Oates' style, these mini stories examine fear, lust and death. A lot of them use stream of consciousness, and most of them work, but some left me confused and irritated. Stories that deserve a closer reading are Tick, Assignation, ...more
Sarah Pierce
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This author can do no wrong in my eyes. I bought this in a secondhand book store in Cleveland. It’s a collection of very short stories, all dealing with the drama of a “normal” life. The woman is a master.
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is much more a collection of fragments than actual stories. Definitely not one of Oates better works. Many fragments seem almost like they are just pieces of random writing prompts that were never really fleshed out.
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't love every story, but her writing is undeniable. When she misses the mark, the language carries it. And when she doesn't, she nails it.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really found myself enjoying this collection of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates. If you are looking for a light book with relatable stories, then this one is for you. This collection contains many short stories that are good stories, but have potential to be turned into longer stories. I also recommend this book for anyone that enjoys people watching.
Oates did a great job at shortening lengthy stories into something much simpler. Looking back, I believe the longest story in the book was a
Russell Bittner
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let me begin by saying that this collection of very short short stories by Joyce Carol Oates is a difficult one to review. It’s difficult not because Ms. Oates’ writing is flawed—far from it—but difficult because the writing is sui generis, one of a kind.

Perhaps it’s best to quote a little bit of Ms. Oates herself from her Afterword (pp. 193 – 195). “With two or three exceptions, the prose fictions of The Assignation are not short stories but ‘miniature narratives’ … radical distillations of s
Eher Fragmente als Kurzgeschichten, die sich zwischen menschlichen Abgründen und Nichtigkeiten bewegen. Anscheinend möchte hier jemand seine Leser unbedingt schockieren, was jedoch auch mangels Intensität nicht funktioniert. Einen Zugang habe ich nicht gefunden, erst recht nicht zu den Protagonisten.
May 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ugh. I had a difficult time sustaining attention to many of these stories. It's literally taken me two months to finish this collection and I'm typically a fan of the short stories genre. From what little I've read of Oates and based on her reputation (three Pulitzer nominations!) I was very excited to spend more time with her writing. This book did not live up to my expectations.

The most interesting thing about this book was the 5x8 index card in the middle of the book with selected quotes from
Pamela Scott
I have wishy-washy feelings about the stories in The Assignation. JCO knows how to write with brutal honesty that can be uncomfortable at times. One of the things that makes me a huge admirer of her work is her ability to write fiction that makes me feel like someone has sliced off the top of my head and is prodding my brain matter. This is a good thing. JCO constantly surprises, stuns and shocks me in equal measures. Except she never really does this in The Assignation. I just didn’t feel the l ...more
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to rate an entire collection of stories because, inevitably, I liked some more than others. And actually there were a whole bunch that I really didn't care for -- characters that I couldn't relate to, literary gimmicks I can't stand, like using just an initial for a name (Ex: "N. did thus and such.") Just pick a name or use pronouns! And there was a lot of stream of consciousness narrative... with varying success.

But then there are stories that I really like, such as "Tick," which ble
Nathan Isherwood
Joyce Carol Oates is a fucking machine. No seriously, the woman runs on oil and scrap metal. Isn't it amazing, though, that a prolific creature such as this manages to churn out some fantastic prose, all without sunlight or oxygen? Most of these stories are short, very short, and simple. Therein lies the charm, I'd say. If you're a fan of short fiction, you owe it to yourself to pick this up and give it a whirl. You'll be amazed at what kind of power and earnestness the woman can pack into such ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I could drown in Joyce Carol Oates writing, and The Assignation is no exception. It's hard to rate a collection of stories because inevitably some strike a louder chord than others. Based on the lingering chills from Shelter and Visitation Rights, the book is absolutely five stars.

Every single story evoked some form of yearning, melancholy, anxiety, fear, beauty, loss, or obsession. Brilliant.
Well, crud, grad school starts up again and there go all of my priorities. I finished this book last month and still no review! For shame.

OK, this was an amazing read. Oates has an incredibly authentic voice and is a terrific writer. More than anything, however, her understanding of the human psyche is unmatched. The woman is a genius.
James Sheasley
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is an astounding wordsmith and character creator. The collection provides brief glimpses into the lives of individuals whose existences are both mundane and extraordinary, sometimes simultaneously.
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A- Really good stories--slice of life styles. Don't expect neat little tied up endings or even understanding who the characters are--but expect to read some good writing with brief glimpses into the human psyche. Fascinating. JCO at her best.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This compilation is fantastic. Oates is so good at taking utterly small slices of life and turning them into completely compelling narrative. I look to this book as a guide to the mastering of the short story genre.
Sandra Proto
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I really enjoyed these short stories. Joyce Carol Oates supplied enough information to engage the reader in the complex characters and situations. But she also gave room for discovery that the reader could explore.
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
AMAZING, one of her absolute best collections. some of the briefest and most perfectly written pieces of fiction i've ever read
Kelly Applegate
My favorite Oates collection of short stories
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my absolute favorite books. Very short short stories that disturb.
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After all these years, I still think about the story "Tick."
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taut, timeless, classic JCO.
Dec 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
El reading. Condensed and often sharp shorts.
Edward Creter
Oates sends us her shortest stories==short, sweet and very to the point! Add to your Oates collection NOW!
rated it really liked it
Jun 21, 2016
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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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