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Faithless: Tales of Transgression [Paperback]

Joyce Carol Oates
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 July 2003

An enthralling collection of short stories from the National Book Award shortlisted author of ‘Blonde’ and ‘Middle Age’.

In this collection of 21 stories, the mysterious private lives of individuals are explored with vivid, unsparing precision and sympathy. By turn interlocutor and interpreter, magician and realist, Joyce Carol Oates dissects the psyches of ordinary people and their potential for good and evil with chilling understatement and lasting power.
In ‘Faithless’ two adult sisters recall their mother’s disappearance when they were children; in ‘Ugly Girl’ a bitterly angry young woman defines herself as ugly as a way of making herself invulnerable to hurt, and in so doing hurts others; in ‘Lover’ a beautiful woman locked into an obsessive love affair seeks her revenge in a bizarre, violent manner.
Intense and provocative, ‘Faithless’ is a startling look into the heart of contemporary America from the modern master of the short story.

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Faithless: Tales of Transgression + Rape: A Love Story + The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspence
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First edition edition (7 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841156477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841156477
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 734,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including 'We Were the Mulvaneys', which was an Oprah Book Club Choice, and 'Blonde', which was nominated for the National Book Award. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.

Product Description


'Joyce Carol Oates is a writer who always takes your breath away.' Mail on Sunday

'”Faithless: Tales of Transgression” makes its brisk incisions into the themes of terror, female passion, collapsing male identity, loneliness, divorce, revenge …Again and again [Oates] finds new language to describe the immensity of desire…She twists back against our assumptions, seeking always the gristly pop of revelation.' New York Times Book Review

'Oates is a massive literary heavyweight, and many earnestly believe she could knock the other contenders for the title of Great American Novelist – Updike, Roth, Wolfe, Mailer.' Guardian

'Oates is an inspired writer, and a formidable psychologist. She has a thrilling way of grasping an emotion, wasting no time in judicious rumination but launching herself straight at the aching heart of the matter.' Independent

‘Oates’s precise and inspired writing is close to witchcraft.’ Jeanne Moreau

‘Novelists such as John Updike, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer slug it out for the title of the Great American Novelist. But maybe they’re wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Great American Novelist is a woman.’ The Herald

From the Back Cover

In this collection of twenty-one unforgettable stories, Joyce Carol Oates explores the mysterious private lives of men and women with vivid, unsparing precision and sympathy. By turns interlocutor and interpreter, magician and realist, she dissects the psyches of ordinary people and their potential for good and evil with chilling understatement and lasting power.

In 'Faithless', two adult sisters recall their mother's disappearance when they were children. In 'Ugly', a bitterly angry young woman defines herself as ugly as a way of making herself invulnerable to hurt and in so doing hurts others. In 'Lover', a beautiful young woman locked into an obsessive love affair seeks her revenge in a bizarre, violent manner. In 'Gunlove', a woman in thrall to a powerful erotic fetishism recounts in brief, deadpan vignettes a history of her relations with firearms.

Intense and provocative, 'Faithless' is a startling look into the heart of contemporary America from the modern master of the short story.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Transgressive extremes 16 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is a very good collection of short stories that gets some way towards delineating the transgressive extremes in relationships. American in its social setting, it is nonetheless international in its exploration of family disloyalties, family failings and what men and women can't seem to help doing to one another. It is not a serene or easy read, but it is unflinchingly laced with the realism that is Oates' forte.

In some of the stories here, people are pinned down and laid out for view with a forensic touch. Sometimes the writing lacks intimacy. However, more often her voice is in your head as the pulse of a story beats with your own.

One thing about Oates' work is that she consistently tries new viewpoints. Here she does men as well as she does women, as one would expect from a writer of her generation (i.e. before we all became 'lads' and 'chicks' in marketing parlance). I don't know many writers with whom you can feel such a strong confidence, but Oates at her best is one such. She is good on characterisation, and excellent on situating the reader in whatever milieu she writes about. She ranges wider than many writers too, with great ease, taking in working-class protagonists as well as the inevitable middle classes. She is also the writer of one of the most hair-raising stories I've ever read (not in this collection) about a mother who is a drug addict, and her very small children.

I like the way she wants to get inside her people and see events through their unique perspective. She's good at this although she doesn't seem to be considered at the top of the tree along with members of the great white male cabale - Updike, Wolfe, Roth, DeLillo, et al. To my mind that's not altogether fair, since her insight and versatility are as good if not greater than theirs. No one ever accuses Updike of writing badly about sex (which he often does) or of DeLillo lacking in warmth (which he often is). Oates, at her best, is better than both.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master storytelling at its best 26 April 2001
By Lynn Adler - Published on
Looking at the cover of this book, you might easily delude yourself into thinking that these stories are all in some way about marital infidelity. In fact, they are not. I happened to look inside the front cover of the book, and was reminded that many years ago Ms. Oates published a collection called "Marriages and Infidelities," which in a way seems like some sort of irony. Taking a cue from the title story, "Faithless" in the middle of the book, we learn that meaning of the word here is tied to religion and a particular character's lack of belief in God, and secondarily, her supposed lack of marital fidelity. Looking at the subtitle: "Tales of Transgression", we might think of sin. If we look at the introductory quote from Pascal to the entire collection, you get a further clue, " When one does not love too much, one does not love enough." So, what ties these 22 very different stories together? Where do the characters fail or go awry, as most of them do? Is it lack of faith in God, sinning against an individual or society, being dangerously devoted to a misguided cause or belief, or a simple lack of inner strength?
Sometimes the stories are slices of life, the simple grinds, the fears of ordinary everyday life. Example: The daily routine of an unloved and lonely young waitress. Others go deeper and darker, touching on chilling family secrets and contemporary societal evils, from a suspicious disappearance of a wife and mother, to euthanasia, to a planned murder by a spurned lover, and to the physical violation of an undercover TV reporter. These are just a few.
What is exciting and what elevates Ms. Oates' stories are that they invite endless speculation and don't give up automatic answers. The only common thread is Ms. Oates' consistent and enduring style, very similar to her other collections, yet managing to sound fresh. These are never comforting, lighthearted or heartwarming bedtime stories. There is always a nervous precision edge, a razor-sharp tone that accurately finds its mark, causing the reader's heart to palpitate. Once again, Joyce Carol Oates is in top form with this new group of short stories.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faithless: Et Tu Bruti? 30 July 2001
By Jon Linden - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In her latest book, "Faithless: Tales of Transgression", Joyce once again shows her readers her virtuosity in the mastery of the short story. While the book is a compilation of stories relating to "transgressions" the manner of selection and the juxtaposition of the tales within the book is masterful in and of itself. Not only does Joyce deal with transgressions of marital fidelity, but she captures the essence of other transgressions. Those against oneself. Those against others not our lovers. Those against family members. And those of society against its people.
Joyce's articulation of the mental processes and logic of the transgressor and the transgressed provides a window into the "existential human experience" the likes of which are only rivaled by such authors as Camus, Kafka and Sartre. The book is constructed to take the reader from self-transgressions all the way through the entire spectrum to perhaps the ultimate societal nightmare, the "faithlessness" of those sworn to "protect and serve", the police forces of the country and specifically those of New Jersey.
Joyce makes very little attempt to hide the venue of her stories, and by doing so, she makes them even more personal. Yet, her manner of writing and her incredible acumen and sensitivity allow her to write the stories in such a way as to make them timeless and placeless, so that the reader comes to understand that these things could be happening in any place, in any town, in their own backyard.
The book is perhaps the finest compilation of stories to come out this year and perhaps will remain so until the end of this year. The book is a must read for any serious literature fans who wish to increase their personal understanding of the deep and often secret workings of the inner mind of the transgressor and how the logic of such a mind can bring virtually any person to the point of committing the most unspeakable crimes, yet Joyce does speak of them, in a manner as eloquent as any ever set down on paper. The book is a highly recommended read and serious lovers of literature should indulge themselves by partaking in this fabulous collection.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories, Stories, Stories 25 July 2001
By Jatoby - Published on
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking 'wow, where does this all come from'. Oates has a deep well of endless stories, thoughts and ideas. This book stirred my mind up -- during the period of time I was reading it, I was dreaming every night. An excellent read for variety, emotion, suspense and wonder!!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars disturbing, but great 5 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on
I originally wanted to read just one or two stories while I waited for another book I had on hold, but ended up reading about 10-12. The people in this book are often disturbed individuals and I loved it. Nothing like a protaganist to hate and pity I say. Oates has come a long way in her writing. the dialogue in particular in these stories is great and I could envision the scenes in each story. At a minimum, pick this up at the library and read a couple stories. I recommemd: faithless, lover, and questions
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no stopping this amazing author! 27 Nov 2004
By CoffeeGurl - Published on
Joyce Carol Oates is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her work is amazing and with prose so beautiful that it is at times lyrical. I have loved all of her short story collections and marvel at the fact that am all the more impressed every time I pick up a new Oates book. Faithless: Tales of Transgression isn't an exception. This amazing short story collection covers a vast variety of subjects that speak to you and move you to the core. Some are dark and others are downright shocking, but they are always memorable. My favorites are "Ugly," "Physical," "Secret, Silent," "The Vampire," "A Manhattan Romance," "We Were Worried About You," and "Faithless." Here you will find stories centered on self-esteem, relationships gone awry and even murder mysteries (I should add that the story "The Vampire" isn't centered on the paranormal, but it is a quite impressive and somewhat disarming tale that ought to be read). There is something for every reader in this collection. I for one have fallen in love Oates's keen storytelling all over again. I cannot recommend Faithless enough.
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