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Books by Title/Title=topic name > _The Gravedigger's Daughter_ by Joyce Carol Oates

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message 1: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 11, 2009 07:56AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments BELOW IS A COPY OF A POST I MADE TODAY IN OUR GENERAL READING THREAD AT: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...
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I've started listening to the audio of _The Gravedigger's Daughter_ by Joyce Carol Oates. I've never read anything by Oates before because, from what I've heard, she's quite intimidating as an intellectual. The story starts out very suspensefully. It seems a bit dark. We'll see if I'll continue.


message 2: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Last night I decided to start reading the hard copy of this book which I've borrowed from the library. The hook is in! Joyce Carol Oates can really tell a story!

Unfortunately, someone else at the library is requesting this book. So I must return it to the library. The audio is OK, but I prefer reading the book because I seem to focus better on the printed word and there's more time to savor Oates' compelling and intelligent writing style.

About the audio, I must say that the narrator is wonderful... her words are full of feeling and expression. The narrator's name is Bernadette Dunne.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll have to search it out, but I've only read a couple of her short stories. I agree she is dark, and a darkness that was not to my liking as I recall.
I was put off is all I can remember for sure.


message 4: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) | 4050 comments I prefer to read it myself, I seem to space out when listening to someone else read. It would be very convenient if I could use audiobooks, I'd get a lot more books read.


message 5: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 11, 2009 08:52AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Pontalba wrote: "I'll have to search it out, but I've only read a couple of her short stories. I agree she is dark, and a darkness that was not to my liking as I recall. I was put off is all I can remember for sure."

Pontalba, the darkness bothered me at first, but now, as I say, the hook is in. Joyce Carol Oates' intelligent writing style is impressive... she's a great wordsmith and there's depth to her writing. She makes short, clear, understandable references to the great philosophers such as Aristotle and Hegel. I like that because it expands my knowledge and makes me think.


message 6: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Jackie wrote: "I prefer to read it myself, I seem to space out when listening to someone else read. It would be very convenient if I could use audiobooks, I'd get a lot more books read."

Jackie, I'm beginning to realize how audio books can expand our reading background. I use the time in the car to listen. So the audios actually add to the time we can spend "reading" and exposing ourselves to literature.

Yes, my mind sometimes wanders while I'm listening to an audio book. That's a bit of a problem but I'm trying to overcome it. However, if there's an expressive narrator with a pleasant delivery, the story can be enhanced.

Sometimes I listen to audio-biographies while I'm going to sleep. They help me relax and I learn a few things too. If I miss part of the audio when I fall asleep, the next night I can just go back to where I left off. And I don't need sleeping pills. LOL


message 7: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 11, 2009 08:57AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Below is from the Goodreads description:
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"In The Gravedigger's Daughter, Oates has created a masterpiece of domestic yet mythic realism, at once emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative: an intimately observed testimony to the resilience of the individual to set beside such predecessors as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys."
FROM: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15...
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I agree with the above assessment: "emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative".


message 8: by Werner (new)

Werner Re the idea of audio books, neither my wife or I have ever used them. But she enjoys being read to, so when we travel together in the car, we always have a book going that I read to her, instead of listening to the radio, etc. So that works something like an audio book (an "organically-powered audio book," maybe? :-)); and yes, that definitely expands our exposure to literature by opening up time for it that we wouldn't otherwise have. (Why waste travel time when you could spend it with a good book? :-))


message 9: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 12, 2009 06:18PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner wrote: "Re the idea of audio books, neither my wife or I have ever used them. But she enjoys being read to, so when we travel together in the car, we always have a book going that I read to her, instead o..."

Werner, I think that your reading aloud in the car is a wonderful idea. Since I get nauseous if I read in a moving vehicle, it wouldn't be possible for me. Funny though that you should mention this. The other day my husband and I were waiting for the doctor to come into the examining room (to look at my sore knee). We waited and waited and finally, out of boredom, I asked Eddie to read my book to me, more to keep him busy than to help myself. It was a very nice interlude and passed the time for us. Unfortunately, it would never occur to Eddie to read to me otherwise. Too bad because it seems a lovely way to enhance a relationship. (I shouldn't complain though. He cooks for me! LOL)

I'm on page 218 of TGD (reading the book, not listening to the audio). It's a strangely dark story, but what's even more strange is that I don't mind reading it. It seems to resonate with me for some reason. I think it's the fact that Joyce Carol Oates is very good at character development. I feel strongly about the characters.


message 10: by Margaret (last edited Jul 13, 2009 11:32AM) (new)

Margaret | 75 comments Sorry, Joy - really meant to post this comment as part of this TGD thread!

I've been holding off on The Gravedigger's Daughter until someone I knew had read it, so I'm glad to get your endorsement! JCO is hit or miss for me, she can really be a bit much-of-a-muchness - although to be fair she's a brilliant woman and probably can't help herself - and seriously, does she ever do anything when she's conscious besides sit at the computer? We Were the Mulvaneys was a very memorable read for me, because as you mentioned about TGD the characters are so richly drawn and the story so powerful, and Because It is Bitter Because It Is My Heart sticks with me too, although it's subject is very distressing. Some of her early pastiche novels are, somewhat improbably for Oates, almost fun: Bellefleur, which is her spin on the Victorian gothic novel, and A Bloodsmoor Romance, which has a set-up like Pride and Prejudice - five sisters in search of husbands - and then spins off into orbit with the arrival of a sinister black hot-air balloon in which one of the girls is carried off. One critic described it as "Little Women as told by Stephen King"!


message 11: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 13, 2009 08:13PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Margaret wrote: "I've been holding off on The Gravedigger's Daughter until someone I knew had read it, so I'm glad to get your endorsement! ..."

Margaret, I'm on p.318 (of 582 total pages) of TGD and it just gets better and better. Since I haven't read anything else by JCO I have no other way to judge her writing. I'm almost afraid to read anything else by her for fear of being disappointed. How can it get any better than this? Also, I don't want to get into anything over my head. I'm so surprised that I'm understanding everything she writes in this story. I would almost call it an easy read, except for the dark subject matter which deals with the sad issue of abuse.

Thanks for the references to her other work.


message 12: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 75 comments Joy H. (of Glens Falls) wrote: "Margaret wrote: "I've been holding off on The Gravedigger's Daughter until someone I knew had read it, so I'm glad to get your endorsement! ..."

Margaret, I'm on p.318 (of 582 total p..."


Joy, it sounds from the experience you're describing with TGD as if We Were the Mulvaneys is another of JCO's novels you'd find very satisfying. It's also driven primarily by character and narrative, and isn't so much weighted down by the author's enormous brain! I do sometimes think that her reputation can be more intimidating than many of her books really are - she has a magnificent imagination, and she's a tremendous stylist, and I always feel that very confident, literate writers are "easy" to read even when they're tackling pretty esoteric material.


message 13: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 14, 2009 12:06PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Margaret wrote: "... I do sometimes think that her reputation can be more intimidating than many of her books really are - she has a magnificent imagination, and she's a tremendous stylist, and I always feel that very confident, literate writers are "easy" to read even when they're tackling pretty esoteric material."

Margaret, yes, your "take" on Joyce Carol Oates seems to be correct, as far as I can see. TGD is surprisingly easy to follow, not intimidating at all. Instead it's compelling.

As for other "literate" writers being easy to read, I'm not so sure about that. I had a hard time following _The Plague of Doves A Novel_ by Louise Erdrich. The book had so many time shifts and location shifts... and so many different characters to remember and connect with one another... that the book was very confusing and frustrating to read. Even the ending was a let down, even though it was supposed to be some sort of resolution. It was very vague and sudden. I felt cheated.

I wasn't crazy about Toni Morrison's _A Mercy_ either. Each chapter had a different character as narrator and sometimes it took a while to figure out who was doing the talking. I don't like books which turn out to be puzzles... especially if you're not looking to read a detective story! Ah, I got that off my chest! LOL

My review of _A Mercy_ is at: ====>
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

My topic, with my comments about _The Plague of Doves_, is at: ====>
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...


message 14: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments I just found the following review of TGD at: ====>
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.u...

It may contain spoilers. So I'll read it after I finish reading the book. I'm currently on page 475. It ends on page 582.


message 15: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 75 comments Joy H. (of Glens Falls) wrote: "As for other "literate" writers being easy to read, I'm not so sure about that..."

I hear you, Joy - I actually can't read Louise Erdrich at all, and I haven't really liked much of Toni Morrison either, she always feels to me like she's a little too much in love with her own voice. I guess when I say "easy to read" I'm really making a distinction that may or may not be valid between the actual use of language/clarity of expression and those elements that get us interested and keep us engaged by the story and its characters, i.e. structure, plot and character development. Contemporary writers often seem to emphasize style at the expense of storytelling, and I too have a very tough time with that kind of writing in a novel - although I have to say that an author who really relishes language and uses it in an exciting way can keep me in it longer than one who doesn't, even if the book overall isn't necessarily doing it for me. I used to doggedly finish every book I started even if I was *hating* it, but at some point I decided life is both too long and too short to spend any of it reading something I don't like! My general rule of thumb now is that if the author doesn't get the hook in in the first 50 pages, I'm out of there. My sister once took a writing seminar at Columbia with John Irving, and one of the things he said was, "As a writer I need to assume that anyone picking up one of my books has about a hundred other better things they could be doing with their time. It's my job to write a first page that makes them want to read my book instead." I've never forgotten that, and as I get older I wish more writers kept it in mind!



message 16: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Margaret wrote: "... My general rule of thumb now is that if the author doesn't get the hook in in the first 50 pages, I'm out of there...."

Margaret, I agree with you about style being just as important as an interesting story. Nothing turns me off like sophomoric writing in a novel, even if the plot is a good one. I like your "rule of thumb" about getting the hook in. I can never understand why authors begin their stories with boring passages.


message 17: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 16, 2009 08:55AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments (NOTE: This post contains spoilers.)

I have finished reading TGD. As I have said, it was a great story, stylishly written... and the ending was a good one, except for some questions the book has left me with. In the final pages we read letters from a cousin of the main character. The cousin was a holocaust survivor and in her letter makes some vague references to the holocaust. One letter reads as follows: "... the holocaust was an accident in history as all events in history are accidents... The pious fantasizers wish to claim that the Nazi's genocidal campaign was a singular event in history, that it has elevated us above history. This is bullshit... There are many genocides, so long as there has been mankind. History is an invention of books."

I wondered if the cousin were trying to minimize the holocaust and why. I wonder what Joyce Carol Oates was trying to say by including that passage in the final pages of the book. It seemed to suddenly shift the emphasis of the story in some way. I was left off balance. I had expected closure of some sort for the main character. She had finally survived her terrible life's journey and had also located her long lost cousin. But the long lost cousin takes the book into what seems to be an ambiguous and unsettling tangent. Could it be that Oates had intended the book's ending to be unsettling and controversial? Maybe.


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