I'm a big fan of the short stories of Joyce Carol Oates, masterpieces such as "Haunted", "Wild Saturday", "Where Have You Been , Where Are you Going " are stories that I've enjoyed rereading many times and they still fascinate me. That's why I was so disappointed by this collection, many of the stories read more like ideas for stories and not even first drafts. The premise for the title story, the shared experiences and interplay of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Short, should have been developed by such a skilled writer as Oates in to a dark, haunting tale about the seedy underbelly of 1940s Hollywood. Instead we just get disjointed , unimaginative monologues from the three protagonists : Elizabeth Short ( murder victim ), Marilyn Monroe and KK a "glamour" photographer who preyed on would-be starlets. Everything is just left hanging in the ether with no developing plot and no interaction between the characters . Even worse for an admirer of Monroe, Oates portrays Monroe as a cross between Stan Laurel and Betty Boop " OOOh Gee golly". She did the same in her novel " Blonde ". Oates obviously still doesn't get Marilyn Monroe and fails to seperate the woman, Norma-Jean from the beautiful screen image which was her creation , just as Oates magnificient ( usually ) short stories are her creations. This is why " Black Dahlia & White Rose " reads more like a cartoon of sterotypes than a short story.
As for the rest of the stories in this collection, many of them seem to me to be rewrites of her earlier stories which she did much better first time round.
Unlike one of the reviewers, I think this is one of the *better* recently published story collections by Joyce Carol Oates, who, as I had written elsewhere, to my mind, nowadays often writes at a "leapfrog" quality level, i.e. very good, quite bad, very good and so on. I prefer it to Evil Eye, Lovely, Deep, Dark and High Crime Area. Good writing and no loss of control or dilution of suspense.
Black Dahlia & White Rose: Stories is an intriguing collection that not only tells stories, but make us ponder them and hold our breaths as we turn every page. Boundaries are made invisible, ideas are tested, stereotypes are rendered meaningless and the wideness of man's soul is revealed. A friend suggested I read this story and The Sweetest Madness; and henceforth, I will start taking his choices seriously, especially of short stories.
I am one of JCO's biggest fans and enjoy reading whatever she writes, however this seemed to be less book for the money ,i.e. was read very quickly and also, surely too much of it is available to read on the 'look inside' feature. Good cover design but extremely annoying to handle as the inner flaps curl firmly outwards as soon as the book is opened and maintain a life of their own.