Cover image for I'll take you there : a novel
Title:
I'll take you there : a novel
Author:
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ecco, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
290 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780060501174
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

I'll Take You There is told by a woman looking back on her first years of college, at Syracuse in the 1970s. Her story, softened by the gauze of memory and the relief of having survived, nonetheless captures a harrowing ordeal of alienation and despair, heightened by a wrenching interracial love affair and her father's death.

Cursed by insatiable yearning and constant dissatisfaction, "Anellia" has always been haunted by her mother. With her father and brothers making her feel responsible for her mother's death, she longs for acceptance and the warmth of human compassion. When Anellia begins college, she naively seeks that compassion at a sorority house, with disastrous results. Gradually she descends to deeper levels of estrangement, until she is nearly an outcast. She is swept up in a turbulent love affair with a black philosophy student only to be abandoned. Her sense of rejection reaches a turning point when she's called away to be with her dying father.

With deftly cast philosophical meditations -- on love, death, identity, the body -- I'll Take You There is a portrait of a young woman surprised to discover strength in simply enduring. It is a thought-provoking meditation on the existential questions that arise in burgeoning adulthood, a tender evocation of the dignity and power of young love.


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 is at her creepy best when she gives full rein to her fascination with the unwholesome, the obsessed, the dangerous. Her eroticism verges on the macabre and the masochistic, and she is intrigued with the death of innocence. What better setting for exploring such themes than a college campus, where young women away from home for the first time struggle to forge an identity among strangers, and appetites are rendered unhealthy under the stress of academic and peer pressure? Beasts [BKL O 1 01] is a gothic tale about a college coed, as is this portrait of a brilliant, unstable, spindly, wild-haired white girl so consumed by her inner life, and so in flux psychologically, that readers never even learn her name. An early 1960s scholarship student, she gets accepted into a sorority only to discover that she doesn't fit in and can't afford the lifestyle. She extracts herself at great mental and social peril, then, half-starved, develops a delirious infatuation with a brainy and conflicted black graduate student. Their intense and increasingly psychotic scenes together reveal a morass of racial misapprehension and echo the passion and violence of the civil rights movement. Oates' phoenixlike narrator eventually leaves the wet, windy East for sun-baked Utah to see her father before he dies, but in a diabolically ironic twist, she's forbidden to actually look at him. A master at articulating the emotional valence of place and the turbulent weather of the mind, Oates pushes human experience to the edge of normality where the tides of madness and myth roll in. --Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Most of us transcend the solipsism of loneliness by involvement in family, school or work. "Anellia," the narrator of Oates's 30th novel (who never reveals her real name), is denied the comfort of a family, finds education to be a frustrating journey through various hostile worlds and finally becomes that most solitary of creatures, a writer. The time is the early '60s. Anellia is the last child of Ida and Eric. After Ida's death (for which Anellia is blamed by her three brothers), Eric leaves his daughter to be raised by his cold German Lutheran parents in the upstate New York town of Strykersville. Anellia wins a scholarship to Syracuse University around 1960. She becomes for a period a Kappa Gamma Pi. The conventionally girlish Kappas are a decidedly different breed from Anellia: she is intellectual, shy, careless of her looks and hygiene, poor. Eventually the Kappas and Anellia come to a violent parting of the ways. Next, Anellia has a depressingly anhedonic affair with a black philosophy graduate student, Vernor Matheius. Vernor is trying to hold himself aloof from the civil rights struggle making the evening news, yet necessarily becomes drawn in. In the final section, Anellia, living in Vermont and working on her first book, goes to Utah to be with her father on his deathbed. Oates's fans will be pleased by the usual care with which she goes about constructing the psychology of Anellia and Vernor, but may find Anellia too narrow and stifling a spirit, limiting the larger gestures and bravura flashes of gothicism at which Oates excels.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Oates's prose is nothing if not consistent, offering a steady ebb and flow of emotion vs. action in any given situation. With that said, her newest effort, written on the heels of her first YA book (Big Mouth & Ugly Girl), feels a bit formulaic. The story is about a nameless girl, pathetic and greasy, who has obsessive tendencies, especially when it comes to interacting with other people. For the first 100 or so pages, Oates does nothing but characterization, building the back story of this girl so that her actions in the following sections make sense. A noble goal yet also an unnecessary one, as instead of fleshing out both plot and characters, her extreme focus on the latter leaves the reader bored. Even the love story between this girl and an African American grad student seems boring, a far cry from the intense sexual energy present in Oates's other works. The author's obsession with both upstate New York in the 1950s and young, pathetic 19 to 20 year olds is getting repetitive. Not an essential purchase, although there will be a high demand. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/02.]-Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Every substance is necessarily infinite. Spinoza, Ethics In those days in the early Sixties we were not women yet but girls. This was, without irony, perceived as our advantage. I am thinking of the house on a prominent hill of a hilly and wind-ravaged university campus in upstate New York in which I lived for five wretched months when I was nineteen years old, unraveling among strangers like one of my cheap orlon sweaters. I am thinking of how in this house there were forbidden areas and forbidden acts pertaining to these areas. Some had to do with the sacred rituals of Kappa Gamma Pi (these very words a sacred utterance, once you were initiated into their meaning) and some had to do with the sorority's British-born housemother, Mrs. Agnes Thayer. They would claim that I destroyed Mrs. Thayer. Pushed her over the edge which makes me think of an actual cliff, a precipice, and Mrs. Thayer falling by some ghostly action of my flailing arms. Yet others would claim that Mrs. Thayer destroyed me. The Kappa Gamma Pi house! The address was 91 University Place, Syracuse, New York. It was a massive cube of three floors in that long-ago architectural style known as neo-Classic; made of heavy dusky-pink-pewter limestone like ancient treasure hauled from the depths of the sea. Oh, if you could see it! If you could see it with my eyes. The looming ivy-covered facade and in the perpetual Syracuse wind the individual ivy leaves shivering and rippling like thoughts. Insatiable questions. Why? why? why? The lofty portico and four tall graceful white columns of the kind called Doric, smooth and featureless as telephone poles. The house was located at the far, northern end of University Place, a quarter-mile from Erie Hall, the granite administration building that was the oldest building on the university campus. University Place itself was a wide boulevard with parkland as a median, slowly dying yet still elegant elms. Walking from the Kappa house to the university campus on the worst winter mornings was like climbing the side of a mountain, the incline was so steep in places, sidewalks icy and treacherous so you were better off trudging across the brittle grass of lawns instead. Returning, mostly downhill, was less of a physical effort but could be treacherous, too. A half-block from the northern end of University Place the earth shifted as if in a cruel whim and there was a final steep hill to be climbed, an upward-jutting spit of land, at the top of which was the stately Kappa house with, above its portico, these mysterious symbols - § ° The Kappa Gamma Pi house, unlike most of the local fraternity and sorority houses, had a history. It was, in fact, "historic": it hadn't been constructed for the mere utilitarian purpose of being a Greek residence, but had once been a millionaire's home, a mansion, built in 1841 (as a plaque proudly noted) by a prominent Syracuse clockworks manufacturer and deeded to the newborn local chapter of the national sorority Kappa Gamma Pi at the death of an elderly-widow alumna in 1938. Her name sacred in our memories as Kappa alums would solemnly instruct us but her name has vanished from my memory, it's only the house I recall. Before I was initiated into Kappa Gamma Pi in the second semester of my freshman year at the university, I would often walk far out of my way to pass the house from below; I was a pledge by this time, yet not a "sister"; I drifted lovesick and yearning gazing up at the somber, ivy-covered facade, at the tall white columns in my imagination so many more than four columns, five, six, ten columns! The floating letters § ° filled me with wonder, awe. For I did not yet know what they meant. Will I be a Kappa? I thought. I - I! - will be a Kappa. It didn't seem possible, yet it had to be possible, for how otherwise would I continue? I was possessed by the wayward passion of one to whom passion is unknown; denied, and thwarted; if falling in love had been a game, the object of the game would have been, to me, to resist; as in chess, you might sacrifice pawns in the service of your queen; your queen was your truest self, your virgin-self, inviolable; never would you give away your queen! And so I was one whose immune system had become defenseless before the assault of a virulent micro-organism invader. My eyes, misted with emotion, purposefully failed to take in the patina of grime on the limestone walls and on the columns, or the just perceptibly rotting, mossy slates of the roof, which, iridescent when wet, in rare, blinding sunshine, were so beautiful. Nor did I see the rust-tinctured network like veins or fossil trails imprinted in the limestone by English ivy that was dying in places, had been dying for years, and was withering away. There were more than twenty Greek houses on or near University Place, and Kappa Gamma Pi was neither the largest nor the most attractive. You could argue that it was the most dour, possibly even the ugliest of the houses, but, to me, such qualities suggested aristocratic hauteur, authority. To live in such a mansion and to be an initiate, a sister of Kappa Gamma Pi, would be, I knew, to be transformed. I wondered if, at initiation, I would be given a secret Kappa name. I didn't believe in fairy tales or in those ridiculous romances beginning Once upon a time. A fairy tale of a kind had prevailed at my birth and during my infancy but it had been a cruel, crude fairy tale in which the newborn baby isn't blessed but cursed. Yet I believed in Kappa Gamma Pi without question. I believed that such transformations were not only possible, but common. I believed that such transformations were not only possible, but inevitable. (Continues...) Excerpted from I'll Take You There by Joyce Oates Copyright © 2003 by Joyce Oates Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

I. The Penitentp. 1
II. The Negro-Loverp. 95
III. The Way Outp. 241