Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by JACOB H. FRIES & r & & r & Wild Nights! & r & by Joyce Carol Oates & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n Wild Nights!, Joyce Carol Oates imagines the final days of five literary lions: Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James and Hemingway. Blending fact and fiction -- generally, a larger helping of fiction -- she tries to assume each writer's voice as she builds stories about the iconic figures. By the title, and its exclamation point, one might assume that Oates set out to create celebratory stories about the adventures of some great, albeit troubled, American carousers. (Picking up the book, I was excited to read about Hemingway having a grand ol' time in Key West, however fictionalized.)





But Oates had no such notion, instead preferring to imagine the writers at the ends of their lives, in the twilight of genius, as their bodies and minds fail. Her section about Hemingway, for example, is set in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961 -- a far cry from the bright and sunny Florida Keys -- and opens with Papa fantasizing about the end. "He wanted to die. He loaded the shotgun," the story begins. "His head was leaking. And you could smell it: greeny pus. His brain was inflamed, swollen." Not exactly cheery stuff. The Hemingway of Oates' imagining is a pitiful old man who can't write, walk without a cane or get an erection -- all of which may have been true -- but one can't help feeling depressed about this account. Even giants, Oates seems to say, piss themselves in the end.





And perhaps that's how she feels. Oates' husband of 48 years died in February. And she herself is knocking on the door of 70 -- the age she gave to Mark Twain in the story "Grandpa Clemens & amp; Angelfish." In it, we see Twain seeking the attention of schoolgirls -- "not a day younger than ten and not a day older than fifteen" -- who remind him of his dead daughter Suzy. He gives the girls gifts and they, he thinks, help him write as he once did (which, of course, he can't actually do).





While Wild Nights! celebrates these writers by exemplifying their styles, it's really too depressing to inspire any rereadings.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Game Changer
  • Game Changer

    Since Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • In Contempt
  • In Contempt

    A Spokane judge rules that the mental health system has willfully failed to follow evaluation deadlines
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Never Again
  • Never Again

    Washington state lawmakers push reforms after last July's murder-suicide; plus, Spokane's police ombudsman is leaving
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Spokane Winter Glow Spectacular

Spokane Winter Glow Spectacular @ Riverfront Park

Through Jan. 1, 2015

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Let Us Breathe

    Spokane joins national protests over the failure to indict white officers for killing black civilians
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • Screw Big Cities

    A mid-sized manifesto
    • Dec 3, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation