Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"[Jagged Lines] : Six Hypotheses" by Joyce Carol Oates

I have to say, I was surprised to find a story by Joyce Carol Oates when I flipped to the next story in the current anthology that I'm reading (Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy). I thought to myself "what is her work doing here? She's not a fantasy author, right?" Now, I'll freely admit that I've never been too familiar with Oates' work, other than to know that she's been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize a few times now and that she's incredibly prolific. Now, perhaps, if I did know more, I wouldn't have doubted why she was being included in the above anthology, but, as it was, I had no idea that any of her work could be classified as fantasy.

That's why I was surprised to not only find the short story included in Flights collection, but also to find that it was so good! In fact, probably the best story of the Collection so far. Oates crafts a wonderfully creepy story here, chronicling the a single family's descent into madness under the influence of, well, something. Through the six sections of the story, the six "hypotheses" for how the "Thing" invades the minds of the family and subsequently drove them to madness, Oates really gets the reader into the heads of the characters. You can feel their sanity falling apart, and their frantic reactions to the threat of the "thing" as the story progresses. The final effect is a very, very creepy story that leaves you tense and drained. In short a perfect psychological, supernatural horror story. I'll never doubt that Joyce Carol Oates can write a work of fantasy again.

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