Book Review: Black Dahlia & White Rose

Friday, September 14, 2012

Joyce Carol Oates returns with her latest short story collection, ┼gBlack Dahlia & White Rose.┼h Oates, who has published 25 collections of short stories and many novels, begins her latest collection with the title story, ┼gBlack Dahlia & White Rose.┼h

The story centers around the mysterious death of Elizabeth ┼gBetty┼h Short, who worked as an actress and model alongside Norma Jeane Baker, who later became known as the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

┼gBlack Dahlia & White Rose,┼h is hauntingly beautiful, as the story unfolds from Short herself. She was found mutilated in an abandoned lot in Los Angeles. She had been cast off by her family. There was no one to call.

Oates is one of the ┼ggreats┼h of contemporary American literature, and ┼gBlack Dahlia & White Rose┼h is as good as her other work. Her ability to move the reader from story to story, though none of the stories are related, is astonishing.

Other stories in this collection include ┼gRun Kiss Daddy,┼h and ┼gThe Good Samaritan.┼h

In ┼gRun Kiss Daddy,┼h a middle-aged man comes home after a long day of work. He thinks about his ex-wife and previous family, compared to his new family. But he holds a secret, one he hopes will never come back to haunt him.

┼gThe Good Samaritan,┼h gives an alternative account of what could happen when someone generously returns a lost wallet. The owner of the wallet has disappeared, and her husband is trying to trace her steps. But something about him is off, and Nadia, the protagonist, leaves the situation and forms her own opinions about why his wife left.

Oates's stories are not clear-cut. The endings are not always tied neatly into a little package. They are meant to be pondered and discussed.

Oates is widely acclaimed, and has received the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and the National Humanities Medal, the government's highest civilian honor for the arts.

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