Donnelly Library had its fourth meeting of the Pulitzer Prizes Reading Group on Thursday, November 10, 2016 when we got together to discuss Joyce Carol Oates’s short story collection, Lovely, Dark, Deep.
This was our reading group’s second time to meet and discuss a short story collection; at the third meeting, we had discussed Cheever’s short story collection. Oates is a divisive author. Some reading group members love Oates and some hate her writing. However, no matter how participants felt about the stories, there was dynamic discussion at our meeting. Some of the highlights from the discussion include the below.
- The stories focus on the relationship between the sexes and often include fragile women characters who depend on male approval, often the approval of a husband or father. The group discussed if Oates’s portrayal of women is old fashioned or if many American women today still define themselves in relation to the men in their lives.
- Group members noted a lack of dialog between the characters in these stories or at least a lack of serious discussion between the characters. Participants observed that a lot is communicated between the characters without being said. This was seen in the first story of the collection, “Sex with Camel,” where the grandson and grandmother joke around with each other, but Oates still lets the reader know how much the characters care about each other and how ill the grandmother is.
- Two of the stories that the discussion focused on were stories about authors: “Lovely, Dark, Deep” and “Patricide.” The group discussed why stories about authors are popular and if they may be especially appealing to authors and awards committees. These two short stories also sparked a discussion about how what we know about an author can color how we view their work. We discussed if literature should be judged entirely separately from the author and if it is possible to divorce a poem or a novel from the image of the creator.
- Short story collections can pose difficulties for reading group discussions as there isn’t one main narrative for the group to discuss together as there is when the group is reading a novel. Reading group participants may all want to discuss different stories. On the other hand, short story collections provide reading groups with the opportunity to explore many different works by an author at one time.
Personally, reading Oates always makes me what to read more Oates (or in the case of this collection, I wanted to read more of Oates’s fiction and to revisit Robert Frost’s poetry).
What did you find most interesting about the fourth meeting’s discussion or about the short stories? Please post in the comments below.
|Books truck display of books by Joyce Carol Oates, |
Robert Frost's poems, and books about Frost.