Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage (review)

078960-fc222‘She had no existence, in herself. From earliest childhood she had believed this. Rather she was a reflecting surface, reflecting others’ perception if her, and love of her.’ (p. 378)

What happens when you are no longer able to live up to the label everyone else has put upon you? When you are the youngest sister, your sister is the pretty one – and you are the smart one, but failing at it. What happens then?
Nineteen years old Cressida Mayfield, daughter of the former mayor, is missing. She went to visit a friend and never came home. Investigations are made and it turned out that she acted rather out of character the last evening before she disappeared. She went to a bar to talk to her sister’s former fiancé, Brett Kincaid, something she never did, and they left together. The next day, Brett is found sleeping in his car, alone. But he’s parked in the forest, there’s blood in his car and he’s acting strange. He is taken to the station and later, he’s questioned in the disappearance of Cressida.
Cressida’s family – and especially her father Zeno – is desperately searching for her and not willing to accept that she is anything but lost. But then Brett confesses that he killed her. Brett is a disabled veteran of the Iraq War and since he got back, he hasn’t been quite himself. And now, although he confesses, his confession is mixed up with memories from what he experienced in the war and so it is not quite clear if he actually killed her or not – although he is convicted of it.
Cressida’s family has to adjust to the loss of her – and of course this has huge consequences for the three remaining members of her family. And no one writes this better than Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is a master at writing about the destruction of families, loss and suffering, and heart ache. She is such a skilled writer and her characters are so real that whatever they do, feels real. She creates flawed characters suffering because of both their own and others’ actions. Zeno and Arlette handle the loss very differently and grows apart because of it. Cressida’s sister Juliet, having lost both her fiancé and her little sister, is taking the loss hard – especially since she is presented as fighting with her sister over a man as well as dumping a war veteran. So slowly, the family is broken apart.
It is almost unavoidable to compare this to We were the Mulvaneys since both deals with the breaking up of a family caused by something happening to a daughter. Despite having these similarities, they are still very different books; We were the Mulvaneys being the sadder ones in some ways, probably because there’s a hope of redemption in this one. I’ve rated them both the same but I am giving the edge to We were the Mulvaneys – it is a a better book, although both are excellent.
One thing you can always count on with Joyce Carol Oates, is her taking on difficult subjects. In this one, besides the unability of families to handle serious traumas, she discusses both the death penalty and the way the US takes care of it’s (disabled) war veterans. The last one is a issue in many countries – how do you get wounded soldiers who are damaged both mentally and physically back into society without them being a safety risk to others? The death penalty is not an issue in many countries – especially not in Western countries. I don’t see Oates as being in favor of the death penalty even though she writes the following: ‘… if you were a foe of capital punishment, it was a good idea not to know what condemned prisoners had been convicted of doing to their victims. Good not to temper mercy with too much information.’ (p. 259) She also writes about The Innocence Project as well as have a significant part of the novel taking place in a death penalty facility and a significant plot turning being caused by a character lying down in a execution chamber and by that being reborn.
As always, Joyce Carol Oates delivers. I enjoyed myself every minute I spent reading this book and as always, her way of writing is what impresses me the most. I’m still as blown away by it as I was years ago when I picked up Blonde. This is a really good book and even though Cressida isn’t necessarily the most likable character, Oates makes your care about what happened to her and interesting in reading about her childhood and the experiences that shaped her and brought events in motion which led to a young girl seeking out her sister’s ex fiancé to declare her love for him.

‘You do not want to disappoint those who love you or whom you love. Always it is the easiest thing to kill them as it is easier to kills civilian who might fuck you up with a complaint, easier than to negotiate a deal, once a person is dead there are no longer two sides to a story.’ (p. 180)

First line: Didn’t love me enough.

  • Title: Carthage
  • Author: Joyce Carol Oates
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate
  • Year: 2014
  • Pages: 482 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

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Book Buying 2014 #2

Luckily I didn’t sign up for any challenge to not buy books this year. Because I just went crazy in my favorite Danish bookstore and well, I bought about a billion books. The thing I did right – or wrong, depending on your point of view – was to make a list of books I wanted. This was in part compiled of the list I made of the books I missed in 2013. And well, armed with a list and then exposed to all the other amazing books in the store, I just went nuts and assembled to huge piles – which my boyfriend didn’t even want to help me carry, because he thought he thought I had to experience the consequences of buying giant piles of books. He caved later – I’m sure I won’t.
So here are all the amazingness I bought. Who said you couldn’t buy happiness?

078960-fc222 the eyre affair thewell 390px-Lost_in_a_good_book RifkaBrunt_Tell-the-Wolves

Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage. So Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors and I sometimes forget why exactly but when I then pick up one of her books, I’m just blown away by her writing skills. She is just an amazing writer and this book about a girl who goes missing, possibly because of a disabled Iraqi veteran, sounds amazing.
Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair, The Well of Lost Plots and Lost in a Good Books: I’ve read the first book in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair, and I loved it and have been wanting to read the rest ever since. So when I saw the entire series at the store, I almost bought them all but well, I sort of tried to be just a bit responsible and only bought the first three…
Carol Rifka Brunt: Tell the Wolves I’m Home. This book just sounds amazing. It takes place in the 80s and deals with AIDS and homosexuality in a time, when these things weren’t well-known parts of everyday life. June looses her uncle to this illness, she knows nothing about and doesn’t quite understand and then suddenly she notices a strange man attending her uncle’s funeral and a bit later he tries to get in touch with her. I’ve only heard good things about this and I want to read this one soon.

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Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire (Mistborn Book One). I first heard of Brandon Sanderson when he was chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan died. He seems to be a really great fantasy writer and the Mistborn series is seemingly universally loved so I can’t wait to read it. Still, I only bought the first volume because I wanted to check it out for myself before committing to the whole thing.
Hannah Kent: Burial Rites. This one has been making it’s way all over the blogging world. Everyone has read it, it seems. And no wonder, it sounds amazing. Hannah Kent went to Iceland as a teenager and heard the story of the last woman executed in Iceland and that inspired her to write this book. It reminds me of Alias Grace and everybody seem to love it so I am really looking forward to it.
Leigh Bardugo: Siege and Storm (The Grisha book 2). I loved the first book in this series. It was a great thrilling ride and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Alina and Mal when the Darkling catches up with them – as I’m sure he will.This is pure fantasy brain candy and I’m looking forward to diving into this second book.
Chang-Rae Lee: On Such a Full Sea. I heard an interview with Chang-Rae Lee where he said he wanted to write a book about Chinese factory workers and did all the research and somehow ended up writing a dystopian fantasy novel instead. I have read several books about China and taking place in China and I so want to read this book.
Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Djinni. I first heard about this on the New York Times Books podcast and it sounds like a wonderful combination of fantastic elements, mythology, love and great storytelling. I’ve been fascinating by Golems ever since we were in Prague and heard about them so this one is another book I’m looking forward to.

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Margaret Atwood: Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam. So I’ve read Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood but nothing else and really want to read more because she write great and very interesting books so I’ve been wanting to read this series ever since it started coming out but kept myself waiting until the entire trilogy was out. And I’m really looking forward to find out who Snowman, Oryx and Crake are.
Connie Willis: Blackout and All Clear. Historical fiction, time traveling – it seems to be rather popular to combine these two. Just think of the Outlander series and Kindred by Octavia Butler. It’s about a time travel lab in 2060 who goes bad to WWII and it sounds amazing and so many people have recommended it to me so another one I’m really looking forward to.

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Salman Rushdie: Haroun and Luka. I really like Salman Rushdie and I loved reading his autobiography of the years of the Fatwa, Joseph Anton. And what he wrote about especially Haroun and the Sea of Stories made me really want to read it. Especially since he wrote the book to his son. So it’s supposedly an easier book than most of Rushdie’s books and it sounds imaginative and wonderful. And as a bonus, when you turn the book over, you get Luka and the Fire of Life so two books in one.

So yeah, these were the only books I bought. Yeah. I’m not sure I’m exactly proud of myself but I’m very much excited about all of these. Such good books. And I’m actually already almost done with the first of these – Joyce Carol Oates’ Carthage. Loving it. Hopefully all the rest of these are as good – and I’m pretty sure that at least a bunch of them are. So happy reading to me!

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Top Ten 2014 Release I’m Dying To Read

toptentuesday-1So it’s been a while since I’ve participated in a Top Ten Tuesday last – mostly because the topics haven’t really spoken to me. But this week it’s all about which books we’re looking forward to in 2014 and looking forward to the new releases is very much on my mind, this time of year. So of course I had to participate. And of course there are lots of great reading experience to come out in 2014!
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki and his Year of Pilgrimage. So the newest Murakami novel is supposed to be published in English next year and of course I’m looking forward to that. It’s supposed to be a bit like Norwegian Wood which I really liked so this is definitely one I’m looking forward to.
  2. Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage. Of course there’s a book by Joyce Carol Oates on the list – there is every year. This year it’s about the disappearance of a young girl and what it means to her community and family.
  3. Stephen King: Mr. Mercedes/Revival. It seems we get another Stephen King novel next year – or maybe more than one. There have been several titles mentioned and it’s all on a rumor basis right now but here’s hoping that 2014 will be another big King year (even though I haven’t read Dr. Sleep or Joyland yet).
  4. Patrick Rothfuss: The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicle #3). I’m am so eager for this one to come out because then I can finally start this series. From what I’ve heard, this is a series with serious cliff hangers so I have forced myself to wait. But now the final novel is coming out and I can finally begin reading it!!
  5. Lev Grossman: The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3). This is the series heralded as being a combination of Narnia and Harry Potter, but for adults. I liked the first book in the series so now I’m looking forward to reading the entire series.
  6. Leigh Bardugo: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy #3). This is another trilogy I’ve been waiting to read so I could read it all at once. It sure does look like I’m going to read a lot of series next year!
  7. Blake Crouch: The Last Town (The Wayward Pines #3). Both my boyfriend and I are intrigued by this series and I hope we’ll get around to reading it. It sounds intriguing with a small town completely shut off from everything around it and with no one knowing what’s going on.
  8. Torben Munksgaard: I virkelighedenI studied philosophy together with Torben so I’m always intrigued whenever he publish a new book. This is his fourth novel and I own his first three. If I could just get around to actually reading any of them … They all sound good – I just don’t read a lot of Danish literature…
  9. Diana Gabaldon: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8). I’ve read the first two in the Outlander series and really enjoyed them. I need to pick up my pace and get this series read!
  10. Jim Butcher: Skin Game (Dresden Files # 15). I read the first two in this series and liked them, but didn’t love them. However, I’ve been told that they improve so hopefully I will stick with this series and find out if this one is worth having hopes for!

So there’s my list. I’ve been trying to google a bit and finding some good titles for next year but this is the best I’ve found. It annoys me to have a list filled with books from series – especially from series which I either haven’t started or where I’m far behind – but these are the books I know about, which I’m the most intrigued by.

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News from four big authors

So four of the big authors have some interesting news in the media at the moment.

Salman Rushdie

Rushdie is coming out with his memoirs later this year. We all know about Salman Rushdie because of the fatwa put on him back in 1989. This is his story. This is his version of living with a death sentence over his head for nine years. Even though Rushdie really intimidates me, this is a book I’m really looking forward to.

The book is called Joseph Anton – a memoir and is published on September 18, 2012.

Read more here.

J.K. Rowling

So a while ago J.K. Rowling announced that she was writing a new book. Nothing more was revealed at that point but now, a little more information has come out. This is a novel about the death of a man and how that affects the small town he was living in. It sounds very different from Harry Potter and I’m still very excited to see what else Rowling can do.

The novel is called The Casual Vacancy and is published on September 27, 2012.

Read more here.

And here’s a link to Rowling’s new website which also has a lot of information about the new book.

Stephen King. (and Neil Gaiman).

Neil Gaiman recently talked to Stephen King and out of that came a very interesting interview. Two great authors hanging out together, talking about the trade and about King’s works. There were several interesting points in the interview. First of, King is currently writing a new novel about a serial killer in an amusement park – the novel is called Joyland. Now, he scared me of clowns with It. Now he’s going to take amusement parks from me? I can’t wait!

Also, Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, is done and just waiting to be published. He also says that his son, Joe Hill, writes almost indistinguishable from King himself – but has better ideas. I think I need to check out a book by Joe Hill!

You can read the entire interview here.

EDIT: Neil Gaiman put his entire interview with Stephen King up on his blog – it’s longer that what was in the paper and very interesting.

Joyce Carol Oates

I have Joyce Carol Oates’ new novel Mudwoman just waiting for me finding time for it. This was the novel who JCO wrote while loosing her husband and writing her memoir A Widow’s Story. JCO’s next novel will be related to Mudwoman – fascinating. Here’s what JCO has to say herself about the forthcoming novel: ”Carthage” is in a way a companion novel to “Mudwoman” – it is set in a nearby small city in upstate New York  & is about the return of a severely wounded Iraqi War veteran & his effect upon his fiancee & her family.  As M.R. is an “intellectual” presence, so in this novel is the father of the young man’s fiancee, a lawyer. The novel is constructed as a mystery – but it is a mystery that is finally “solved.” (In this, it is not a teasing post-Modernist work that eludes meaning.) War is always a tragedy for a society – but especially for those who participate in it, & must return home to their old, now outgrown lives.

Now I’m wondering if I should wait and read all three together…

Carthage will be published on January 8, 2012.

Read the entire interview here.