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Monday, October 17, 2011

"The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" by Joyce Carol Oates~ Will Scare You!

Published by: Grove/Atlantic
Pages: 385
Genre: Fiction, Horror


"The Corn Maiden" is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet, but somewhat slow, eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and panics, frantically knocking on the doors of her neighbors. She finally calls the police, who want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 o’clock.Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at her school with no alibi for the time of the abduction. Obvious clues—perhaps too obvious—point directly to him. Unsuspected is Judah (born Judith), an older girl from the same school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, a girl sacrificed to ensure a good crop.The trusting Marissa happily went to a secluded basement with the older girls, pleased to be included, and is convinced that the world has ended and that they are the last survivors. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, she grows weaker on a sparse diet as Judah prepares her for sacrifice.The seemingly inevitable fate of Marissa becomes ever more terrifying as Judah relishes her power, leading to unbearable tension with a shocking conclusion.
Joyce Carol Oates
The Dame's Review:

Joyce Carol Oates hardly needs an introduction, so I've left that off in this review. It continues to amaze me that she is so prolific an author, so "current" and so singluar at the same time, while she is over 71 year old. Whether she's writing the somber story of her own widowhood, the story of a family in Niagra Falls during Love Canal days, or the story of a family torn apart by rape, Ms Oates is mesmerizing. She can also scare the life out of you! This collection of stories is well-named; they are your worst nightmares.

Classic Joyce Carol Oates
Just in time for Halloween, but even more so, "The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" is a book you can keep for those weekends when you have friends up: great food is digesting, you're drinking a last crystal goblet of wine and you just want a bit of quiet entertainment...a sort of send-off to bed...a reading, a story to remember. This quiet weekend would best be spent in up-state NY, in the Catskills, possibly in a lodge you've all leased for the weekend. Nice...friends, the Fall, wine, an old lodge and Joyce Carol Oates. Run for your bed and pull the covers over your head!!

It's difficult to imagine the psychological stealth and horror that can come from the pen of a brainy artist such as Ms Oates; but, then again, that's the joy of reading her work. She has that bent toward the gothic and the gruesome as shown in her former work pictured below. She is gifted in this genre as well as her other areas of choice. Some of her best writing is culled from her short stories.

"The Corn Maiden," the title story of this collection is creepy. The girls perpetrating unspeakable rituals upon their "corn maiden" are creepy and vile. Jude, the primary perpetrator and leader of her little band of weirdos, is suburban-insane and twisted like few other early teens you'll ever meet. Besides all of this, and mingled with the strange ritualistic purpose for their kidnapping poor, defenseless Marissa of the corn-silk hair, are the frightening unknowns that Ms Oates serves up to us: how kids today live not knowing if they're going to survive tomorrow because of nuclear threats, not knowing if parents will be there for them, not knowing why they've been abandoned, not knowing if our food is safe, not knowing if their teacher is a molester, and so on. It's a story about the horrors our children face in their nightmares.
In the reading, you'll discover what else Marissa represents; that, too, is a horror, it's all disturbing. It's all good for us to think about.

Others of the stories also confront the nightmares of disassociation , displacement and dysfunction in families, coupled with the distortions of nature and mind. We know that often the scariest tales are the ones closest to being true or plausible. Not to mention that often those stories happen in the rural places close to home. Joyce Carol Oates was born and raised in Up-State NY...think of what Stephen King does for Maine, folks... And did you know that Timothy McVey grew up not far from where Ms Oates did?

Do you believe a cat can take the breath away; smother a baby? Just because a child imagines she experienced abuse, does that make it true? Is life stranger than fiction?

All I can tell you is that this book is not for the faint of heart. Joyce Carol Oates is a seriously great author no matter what she chooses to write. You can count on this being an extraordinarily good book of nightmarish tales on many levels. Just keep a lamp on...

5 moonstruck stars




I love Joyce Carol Oates so I am looking forward to this collection, even though I am not usually one for short stories.


Great review. I got the creeps just reading what you wrote about it. This is a must seek out and read. Thanks, Deb, you've done it again.

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