by Joyce Carol Oates
Originally published in the March 29, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.
Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage.

Click for a larger image.

It’s been over a year since Oates showed up in these pages, though she often has several published in the course of a year. Last years’ offering was so-so for me (though better than many of this year’s). Unfortunately, this year’s first Oates offering is also just so-so for me.

The story centers around Lizette, a middle-school girl suffering through the typical problems of middle school — boys, lipstick, shame — but also from a physical malady, caused by her father, that killed the nerves around her now constantly watering eyes and also from her mother’s forays into Atlantic City’s nightlife.

We begin at school where Lizette is high on a beer buzz, go with her to the morgue for that I.D., and end up back in school for lunch.

One strength of the story is Oates’ writing style in which a very close third-person narrator takes us through Lizette’s morning. However, I didn’t even really like that and started to look at this story as an exercise, a competent exercise, but nothing really comes out of the style for me. The only thing that kept me reading was the promise of mystery.

I’m hoping next week is better.


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