Friday, October 12, 2012

Drowning in Lake Noir

Joyce Carol Oates has always been a tough one for me. I'd been exposed to many of her short stories in college and read them with indifference. Yet I knew there had to be something there for me. Her vision is so dark and violent, so disturbing that I was convinced I just hadn't given her a fair enough shot.

I few years ago, I became interested in the Gothic novel. I'm talking about the real deal like Mysteries of Udalpho and Melmoth the Wanderer and Vathek for examples. Well, hunting down those books kind of left me cold. Along the way I became curious about modern Gothic novels which brought me back to Joyce Carol Oates.

Bellefleur, Warner Books, 1981
I'd picked up my copy at a garage sale for change. I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the length, almost 900 pages. And again, this was Joyce Carol Oates, someone whose style I didn't exactly take to easily. The book sat around the shelves. I'd pull it down, then put it back and grab something by Mickey Spillane or Jim Thompson instead. And it waited for me.

Eventually I took the plunge. It wasn't long into the novel that I learned to abandon any pursuit of a linear plot. I just wasn't going to get it. Nor were there any timeline and historical perspectives to latch onto. The Bellefleurs world was a universe unto themselves, high up in their castle above the troubled waters of Lake Noir. Within its walls there lived betrayal, jealousy, madness, magic and mystery, a hermit, a shapeshifter, a murderer and more than one ghost.

I loved it.

As it's now October and the air should be turning crisp enough to see your breath, and as the leaves fall and crackle on the sidewalks, Bellefleur is just the sort of book to lose yourself in. If it sounds like it might be your kind of thing, then give it a shot.

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