I don’t know if I trust Joyce Carol Oates. This collection of short stories was better than the title of the title story made it seem like it should. One of the issues that made me distrustful in general is that this collection had a “theme” to it, that is Tales of Suspense. But in reality the stories were better than that made it seem like they might be.
So of the stories, several stood out as being fairly strong.
The opening story “Hi How Ya Doing?” was short and impacting but more than anything the furious pace made it good. I guess because of the subtitle of the book I knew to wait for the show to drop, so to speak, or else the moment that happens would have felt random and sudden, instead it was kind of a nice payoff.
Another story that worked for me was the long story “The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza” which is definitely the best in the collection. In this one, there’s a rewarding narrative distance between the story itself and the narrator, and there’s a “mystery” involved but it’s the kind of mystery created through family privacy. The boxing writing, which is a classic American art, was very satisfying. It’s easy to forget how talented Joyce Carol Oates is on her best days.
The story “Twins” also more or less worked for me and had a feeling of Resident Evil 7, since it involves watching a video tape.
The title story is not great and most of the collection is a little forgettable.
Over all, this is not a great collection, but it’s a more or less good collection. Taking the onus of literary fiction off of it helps, and then it becomes a crime/horror collection, in which case, it’s fine.
I do warn you that I might go on a bit of a Joyce Carol Oates digression to maybe finally put my fascination with her to bed. I will talk more about my general feelings and reticence with her in a future post.