Tuesday, 17 May 2011
A garden of earthly delights (Oates)
I read my first Joyce Carol Oates, a little while ago (Expensive People) which was fascinating, not least because of its untypical (for a VMC) male teenager narrator. Shortly afterwards, Rachel at Booksnob reviewed a non VMC Oates book, and we got into a discussion about whether or not Oates was a "bleak" writer. Having only read the one novel by her, I ordered another from the library, A garden of earthly delights, which pleased me by arriving in a nice green edition.
It's one of Oates' early books and thus I'm not sure whether it is typical of the rest of her work. This book is a saga of the life of a woman named Clara, told through three novellas, each named after a man who was significant in her life: Carleton, her father, Lowry, her lover and Swan, her son. And yes, it is pretty bleak. Clara is born to migrant workers in the midst of the depression; we see her as she grows up, and then as she falls in love with Lowry, falling pregnant. But she ends up marrying another man, and the remainder of the book deals with her relationship with her husband and her sons.
This one has just been published once by Virago with a green spine but otherwise "modern" cover. One more Oates features on the VMC list - Solstice - and I shall certainly be intrigued to give it a go. And I found this page about Oates on the internet whilst writing this post which has some interesting articles.