Cover image for Faithless : tales of transgression
Faithless : tales of transgression
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ecco Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 386 pages ; 25 cm
Au sable -- Ugly -- Lover -- Summer sweat -- Questions -- Physical -- Gunlove -- Faithless -- The scarf -- What then, my life? -- Secret, silent -- A Manhattan romance -- Murder-two -- The vigil -- We were worried about you -- The stalker -- The vampire -- Tusk -- The high school sweetheart: a mystery -- Death watch -- In *copland*.
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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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.

Author Notes

Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938 in Lockport, New York. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Syracuse University and a master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin.

She is the author of numerous novels and collections of short stories. Her works include We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, Bellefleur, You Must Remember This, Because It Is Bitter, Because It Is My Heart, Solstice, Marya : A Life, and Give Me Your Heart. She has received numerous awards including the National Book Award for Them, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. She was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with her title Lovely, Dark, Deep. She also wrote a series of suspense novels under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith. In 2015, her novel The Accursed became listed as a bestseller on the iBooks chart.

She worked as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, before becoming the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She and her late husband Raymond J. Smith operated a small press and published a literary magazine, The Ontario Review.

(Bowker Author Biography) Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most eminent and prolific literary figures and social critics of our times. She has won the National Book Award and several O. Henry and Pushcart prizes. Among her other awards are an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Oates' rich imagination has always tended toward the gothic, as she shows here in this richly spooky story collection. In the shorter stories, such as "Au Sable," Oates provides just enough information for readers to discern the contours of a predicament or failure and then exits dramatically to allow the full horror of the situation to emerge. She displays not only her exceptional narrative skills in her longer, just as harrowing tales but also her love for description, particularly her obsession with articulating just how vulnerable, disturbing, and unreliable the body is with its odors, secretions, ungovernable urges, and myriad grotesqueries. "Ugly" is an unnerving story about a young waitress working in a sleazy diner who believes herself to be unredeemably hideous (she welcomes the vulgarities of her mocking customers), but then she is discomfited by the unattractiveness of the only man who sees her as a human being. Lust modulates from the sexual to the deadly in "Lover," a fashionably creepy little tale of revenge, and in "Questions," a wicked send-up of academic hubris and sexual irresponsibility. Some of the best stories are set in quintessential Oates country, haunted but beautiful Chautauqua Valley, New York, including the mesmerizing title story with its classic surprise ending. Oates is a master at arousing morbid fascination, but she rewards her readers' shivery attentiveness not just with chills and thrills but also with quietly passionate inquiries into the nature of memory and the confounding subjectivism of experience. What is most frightening about life, she suggests, are distortions of perception. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Oates long ago established herself as the nation's literary Weegee, prowling the mean streets of the American mind and returning with gloriously lurid takes on our midnight obsessions. If she has left a stone in the shared unconscious unturned, she turns it here in this collection of 24 wide-ranging stories. As the subtitle suggests, the book's preoccupation is sin, but otherwise the stories are richly various. They range from quiet, intimate tales--such as the chilling opening effort, "Au Sable," about a man let in on a suicide he cannot prevent--to the satiric fantasia on TV journalism and police brutality that closes the volume, "*In COPLAND*." Indeed, the stories (and there are enough here for two if not three volumes) are loosely grouped into three untitled sections, respectively focused on individual obsession, family and notorious recent crimes. Throughout, sex often seems the innocent engine of our sins. In the title story, which opens the second section, sexual infidelity is offered as a coverup for a much deeper faithlessness, and in "What Then, My Life?" a successful woman asks whether her life would have been as meaningful and successful if the sexual assault that marked her youth had not occurred. But it is the stories of the final section that will probably attract the most attention. These tales echo the headlines--the Menendez brothers, Columbine, Abner Louima--but do so with great imagination and unexpected humor. Some may see the collection's virtue, its great variety, as its vice, judging it a miscellany of sketches and treatments written quickly during off hours. But few if any authors share Oates's phenomenal range, and few know our dark but shimmering secrets so well. (Mar. 3)Forecast: Post-Blonde, Oates is flying high. The stories may be a hard sell, particularly with so many Oates novels on the shelves, but strong reviews and lingering Blonde effervescence could translate into decent sales--and of course this should remain a perennial backlist item. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Hero of the Prix Goncourt-winning The Abyssinian, Jean-Baptiste Poncet has even more adventures this time around. He rescues a friend in the Urals, endures slavery in Afghanistan, and then rushes back to Isfahan to save his wife when the city is besieged. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Faithless Tales of Transgression Chapter One Au Sable Early evening, August. In the stillness of the suburban house, the telephone rang. Mitchell hesitated only a moment before lifting the receiver. And here was the first wrong note. The caller was Mitchell's father-in-law, Otto Behn. Not for years had Otto called before the phone rates went down at 11 P.M. Not even when Otto's wife Teresa had been hospitalized. The second wrong note. The voice. "Mitch? Hello! It's me Otto." Otto's voice was oddly lifted, eager, as if Otto were a farther distance away than usual and worried that Mitchell couldn't hear him. And he sounded affable, even buoyant--as Otto rarely was these days on the phone. Lizbeth, Otto's daughter, had come to dread his calls in the late evening: as soon as you picked up the phone, Otto would launch into one of his riffs, complaint-tirades, deadpan, funny, but with a cold fury beneath, in the long-ago style of Lenny Bruce, whom Otto had much admired in the late 1950s. Now, in his eighties, Otto had himself become an angry man: angry about his wife's cancer, angry about his own "chronic condition," angry about their Forest Hills neighbors (noisy kids, barking dogs, lawn mowers, leaf blowers), angry about being made to wait two hours "in a refrigerated room" for his most recent MRI, angry about politicians, including even those he'd helped canvass votes for in the first heady flush of his retirement from high school teaching fifteen years ago. It was old age that Otto was angry about, but who could tell the poor man that? Not his daughter, and certainly not his son-in-law. Tonight, though, Otto wasn't angry. In a warmly genial, if slightly forced voice he queried Mitchell about Mitchell's work, which was corporate architectural design; and about Lizbeth, who was the Behns' only daughter; and about their grown, beautiful, departed children, Otto's grandchildren he'd adored as kids and this went on for a while until at last Mitchell said uneasily, "Uh, Otto--Lizbeth is out at the mall. She'll be back around seven. Should I have her call you?" Otto laughed loudly. You could all but see the saliva glistening on his full, fleshy lips. "Don't want to talk to the old man, eh?" Mitchell tried to laugh, too. "Otto, we've been talking." Otto said, more seriously, "Mitch, my friend, I'm glad you picked up. Not Bethie. I can't talk long and I'd prefer, I guess, to talk to you." "Yes?" Mitchell felt a touch of dread. Never in their thirty years of acquaintance had Otto Behn called him "friend." Teresa must be out of remission again. Dying? Otto himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years before. Not a severe case, yet. Or was it? Guiltily Mitchell realized that he and Lizbeth hadn't visited the older couple in almost a year, though they lived less than two hundred miles away. Lizbeth was dutiful about telephoning, usually Sunday evenings, hoping (usually futilely) to speak first with her mother, whose telephone manner was weakly cheerful and optimistic; but the last time they'd visited, they'd been shocked by Teresa's deterioration. The poor woman had had months of chemotherapy and was bone-thin, her skin like wax. Not long ago, in her sixties, she'd been exuberant, fleshy, sturdy as an earthenware pot. And there was Otto, hovering about, tremors in both hands that he seemed to be exacerbating out of comic spite, complaining brilliantly about medical workers, HMOs, and UFOs "in conspiracy"--what a strained, exhausting visit. On the drive home, Lizbeth recited lines from an Emily Dickinson poem-- "'Oh Life, begun in fluent Blood, and consurnated dull!'" "Jesus," Mitchell said, dry-mouthed, shivering. "That's it, isn't it?" Now, ten months later, there was Otto on the phone speaking matter-of-factly, as you'd discuss selling some property, of a "certain decision" he and Teresa had come to. Teresa's "white-cell blood count," his own "shitty news"--which he wasn't going to discuss. The books were closed permanently on that subject, he said. Mitchell, trying to make sense of this, leaned against a wall, suddenly weak. This is happening too fast. "at the hell is this? Otto was saying, in a lowered voice, "We decided not to tell you and Lizbeth, her mother was back in Mount Sinai in July. They sent her home. We've made our decision. This isn't to discuss, Mitch, y'understand? It's to inform. And to ask you to honor our wishes." "Wishes-?" "We've been looking through albums, old photos and things, and having a ball of a time. Things I haven't seen in forty years. Teresa keeps saying, 'Wow! We did all this? We lived all that?' It's a weird, humbling thing, sort of, to realize we'd been goddamned happy, even when we didn't know it. I didn't have a clue, I've got to confess. So many years, looking back, sixty-two years Teresa and I've been together, you'd think it would be depressing as hell but actually, in the right mood, it isn't. Teresa says, 'We've already had about three lives, haven't we?'" "Excuse me," Mitchell said, through a roaring of blood in his ears, "--what is this 'decision' you've made?" Otto said, "Right. I'm asking you to honor our wishes in this respect, Mitch. I think you understand." "I--what?" "I wasn't sure whether I should speak with Lizbeth. How she'd react. You know, when your kids first left home for college." Otto paused. Tactful. Ever the gentleman. Never would he speak critically about Lizbeth to Mitchell, though with Lizbeth he could be blunt and wounding, or had been in the past. He said now, hesitantly, "She can be, well--emotional." On... Faithless Tales of Transgression . Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Faithless: Tales of Transgression by Joyce Carol Oates All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.