Snotchocheez's Reviews > Heat and Other Stories

Heat and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
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's review
Jul 06, 2012

really liked it

It's rather odd that in my more than two decade close acquaintance with JCO's massive body of work that I've completely ignored her short story output. I recently read her latest (as of now, anyway), Mudwoman and the whole time I read it I was thinking how much better it could've been if pared to its essence and made into a short story (without giving her the opportunity to muck it up with space-filling JCO-esque let's-call-it-poetry-and-not-echolalia repetition and (occasionally) bizarre expository.

Thusly, I checked out Heat, a random library grab of the nearly ten short story collections the library had to offer. I'm pleased to report that my suspicions were correct: the short story is (at least if this collection is representative of all of them) a perfect medium for JCO's blend of broody, malaise-y fiction. Of the 25 stories in the collection, all but the last one are really solid (the last is a clunky Margaret Atwood-ish post-apocalyptic story, that could have jusy as easily been scrapped). My favorites include the titular "Heat" (about two twins killed by a mentally challenged man in a small town in the heat of Summer, and "The Buck" (recounting the efforts of an elderly woman in rural New Jersey to keep hunters from bowhunting deer on her property). For the JCO novitiate, this book's as good as any to discover whether her morose stylings strike a chord in you. For fervent fans, it's required reading.
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