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Black Water (Plume Contemporary Fiction)

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"Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old "good girl" when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fa "Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old "good girl" when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to this older man, this hero, this soon-to-be-lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command, at a party that takes on the quality of a surreal nightmare; in a tragic car ride that we hope against hope will not end as we know it must end....."


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"Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old "good girl" when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fa "Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old "good girl" when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to this older man, this hero, this soon-to-be-lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command, at a party that takes on the quality of a surreal nightmare; in a tragic car ride that we hope against hope will not end as we know it must end....."

30 review for Black Water (Plume Contemporary Fiction)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I only set myself a few reading goals this year and one is to read the books I actually own. This is the second of those. I've read this author off and on, she is so prolific I will probably never read all of her works. This was a quick read, a thinly veiled take on the Kennedy, Kopeckni tragedy. It was just okay for me, a stream of consciousness style with much repetition. Still I love how this writer always tackles new things, her books are never the same, at least those I have read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Impressive, poignant. At the top of her game, THIS IS Joyce Carol Oates! The entire novel is about one single awful AWFUL moment, where everything that splinters from it & before it takes place. It's as short as her "Blonde" is long: both hit you viscerally hard. Crystallizing that dreadful moment impeccably.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Black water., Joyce Carol Oates Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old “good girl” when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to this older man, this hero, this soon-to-be-lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command—at a party that takes on the quality o Black water‬.‬, Joyce Carol Oates Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old “good girl” when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party. In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to this older man, this hero, this soon-to-be-lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command—at a party that takes on the quality of a surreal nightmare; in a tragic car ride that we hope against hope will not end as we know it must end. One of the acknowledged masters of American fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has written a bold tour de force that parts the black water to reveal the profoundest depths of human truth. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و ششم ماه می سال 2017 میلادی عنوان: سیاهاب؛ نویسنده: جویس کارول اوتس؛ مترجم: مهدی غبرایی؛ تهران، افق، 1385، در 154 ص، شابک: 9643692809؛ چاپ دوم 1387؛ چاپ سوم 1389، در 157 ص؛ فروست: ادبیات امروز، رمان 33؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی سده 20 م جویس کرول اوتس؛ داستانی تکان دهنده را، که اسطوره ای آمریکایی شده، پیش روی خویش میگذارد، و از آن رمانی بهت انگیز درباره قدرت سیاسی میآفریند. نقل از آغاز متن: «بخش اول: 1: تویوتای کرایه ای که سناتور آنقدر بیحوصله پشت فرمانش بود در جاده ی خاکی بینام سرعت گرفته بود و سرپیچها با لغزش و وِژوِژ سرگیجه آوری میپیچید و بعد، بی هیچ علامت اخطاری، معلوم نیست چه طور از جاده منحرف شد و در آبِ سیاهِ روان افتاد و یک بر از سمت بغل دست راننده به سرعت فرو رفت. دارم میمیرم؟ این جوری؟ 2 - غروب چهارم جولای بود. جای دیگر در جزیره ی گریلینگ، به ویژه در کرانه ی شمالی، جشنهایی برپا بود، قطارهای اتومبیل کنار جاده های باریک شنی که به کرانه میانجامید پارک شده بودند. کمی بعد که شب میشد، آتشبازی راه میافتاد، نمایش آتشبازی باشکوه با رنگهای درخشان تِکنی کالُر مثل جنگ خلیج فارس در تلویزیون. آن دو در قسمت متروک و خالی از سکنه ی جزیره بودند و به احتمال قوی گم شده بودند. دختر لبهایش را جمع میکرد و میخواست جرئت کند و کلمه ی گم شده را بگوید. مدتها بود که کیف دستیش از هر جهت مجهز بود. کیف کودکانه اش و حالا کیف تابستانی قشنگ گلدار مارک لورا اَشلی. کیف قبلی ــ آن کیف حصیری جلف که حاشیه ی چرم قرمز داشت و بس که از آن استفاده کرده بود ترک برداشته بود ــ هم همین وضع را داشت. جایی بین تالابهای جزیره ی گریلینگ، مین بودند که از لنگرگاه بوت بِیْ در شمال غربی با لنج بیست دقیقه راه بود. گرم گفت وگوی دوستانه بودند و مثل دوستان قدیم، مثل خودمانیترین دوستان دیرین، راحت به حرفهای یکدیگر میخندیدند و کلی با احتیاط میکوشید دستهای سناتور را راست نگه دارد تا باقیمانده ی ودکا و سودا که هنگام رانندگی در دست داشت از لیوان پلاستیکی نریزد و بعد ناگهان، مثل فیلمی که گیر کند و تصویرش بپرد، چنان ناگهانی که هرگز نخواهد فهمید چه قدر، جاده از زیر اتومبیلِ در حال سرعت جاخالی داد و آن دو داشتند در آبِ سیاه فرو میرفتند و برای جان به در بردن دست و پا میزدند و آب به شیشه ی جلو میپاشید و راهِ ورود میجست، انگار که رویاوار تالاب از همه سو جان گرفته و دست دراز کرده بود تا آنها را ببلعد. دارم میمیرم؟ این جوری؟ 3 - بافی رنجیده بود، یا ظاهرا اینطور بود. بیشتر کارهایش نمایشی بود و هرگز درستش را نمیفهمیدی. داشت به کلی کلیهر میگفت، آره ولی چرا حالا میروی، نمیشود کمی دیرتر بروی؟ ــ و کلی کلیهر چیز مبهمی تته پته کرد و نتوانست بگوید چون مرا میخواهد: اصرار میکند. نتوانست بگوید چون اگر کاری را که خواسته نکنم دیگر دیرتری در بین نخواهد بود. تو که میدانی. »؛ پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    The firs time I heard about the so-called Chappaquiddick incident was in college. It was right after Ted Kennedy died, and we were talking about it in one of my classes, and we got around to the various Kennedy scandals, and then my professor remarked, "you know, everyone on the news keeps talking about all the good things that Ted Kennedy did during his life - no one's mentioned how he was responsible for a woman's death." Here are the facts: on the night of July 18th 1969, Ted Kennedy left a pa The firs time I heard about the so-called Chappaquiddick incident was in college. It was right after Ted Kennedy died, and we were talking about it in one of my classes, and we got around to the various Kennedy scandals, and then my professor remarked, "you know, everyone on the news keeps talking about all the good things that Ted Kennedy did during his life - no one's mentioned how he was responsible for a woman's death." Here are the facts: on the night of July 18th 1969, Ted Kennedy left a party held on Chappaquiddick, an island near Martha's Vineyard. In the car with him was Mary Jo Kopechne, a young woman who had worked on Robert Kennedy's campaign. On their way to the ferry, Ted Kennedy accidentally drove the car off the road and into Poucha Pond. The car landed upside down underwater, and although Kennedy was able to escape the car, Kopechne was not. Kennedy claimed he tried to swim to the car several times to help her, but was unable to reach her. After that, he walked away from the accident site, and the car was discovered the next morning by fishermen who then called the police. Here are the creepy facts and suspicious circumstances: After trying unsuccessfully to reach the car, Ted Kennedy went back to the party, got several of his friends, and they returned to the site and tried to reach the car. When this didn't work, Kennedy took the ferry to his hotel and went to sleep. At no point during these events did he ever contact the police to tell them what had happened. When Kopechne's body was finally retrieved from the car, she was found in the backseat, hanging onto the seat with her face tilted upwards - suggesting that there was a pocket of air inside the car after the crash. According to John Farrar, the diver who retrieved her body: "It looked as if she were holding herself up to get a last breath of air. It was a consciously assumed position. ... She didn't drown. She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die." I had no idea that this happened, much less that this woman was trapped in a car underwater for at least two hours.. "Nightmare" doesn't begin to describe it. You can see how it would make a good subject for a novella: what was going through this woman's head as she was trapped in the car, dying slowly, hoping to be rescued? And what better person to tackle this sensitive and terrifying subject than Joyce "Men Are Bad and Will Hurt You" Carol Oates? If you've read Blonde, you have a good idea of how this story is going to go. Oates goes for the obvious and most sinister explanations possible: of course her Kopechne stand-in, Kelly, is a wide-eye and naive idealist with a hefty dose of daddy issues and little romantic experience. Of course her sex life gets described like this: "She'd cried out, short high-pitched gasping cries, she'd sobbed, she'd heard her voice distant, wild, pleading reverberating out of the corners of the darkened room, Oh I love you, I love you, I love love love you, their bodies slapping and sucking hot-clammy with sweat, hair plastered to their heads with sweat, you know you're somebody's little girl don't you? don't you?" and this: "...since girlhood, kissing and being kissed, Kelly Kelleher had always felt, not her own, but the other's, the male's, desire. Quick and galvanizing as an electric shock. Feeling too, once she caught her breath, that familiar wave of anxiety, guilt - I've made you want me, now I can't refuse you." Joyce Carol Oates, you are exhausting. And of course Ted Kennedy (aka "the Senator") is an aging, predatory creep who takes full advantage of Kelly's daddy issues. Of course he's not only drunk when he drives Kelly to the ferry, but is actually drinking a cocktail as he crashed the car. And of course he not only leaves Kelly behind in the car, but actually kicks her away in his haste to escape. Oates has this gift for inspiring outrage on behalf of the supposed villain of her historical retellings. In my review of Blonde I was furious at her one-sided portrayal of Tony Curtis, who was by all accounts a total douchebag, but something about Oates's version of him seemed so deliberately evil, so patently unfair. Black Water was like that. Could we have a little ambiguity, please? Some sliver of goodness in the Senator, something about Kelly to suggest that she's more than just some wide-eyed innocent trapped in the older man's web? No, we can't - the Senator is a bad, bad man and Kelly was a good, good girl and that is that, thank you. In fact, as I read, I started to be more interested in the Senator's side of the story. There are so many more questions there: when he tried to swim down to the car, did he think Kelly was alive? How, when he was walking back to the party, did he not see any lights from nearby houses and try to call for help there? Why did he call his friend first and not the police? Why didn't he call the police at all? What was going through his mind after he had escaped the car? I wanted to read that story, I realized. Kelly's story was terrifying and sad, of course, but the Senator's was where the real mystery was. All Kelly did was drown (WELL that's the most horrible sentence I've ever typed in my life). Alternating viewpoints - going back and forth between Kelly and the Senator before, during, and after the accident - would have been much more interesting, and would have meant a fuller experience (and a longer book) Ultimately, this story succeeded because it made me really want to read more about the actual Chappaquiddick incident, but not because I appreciated Oates's take on the event. By now, I've learned that when it comes to retelling historical events, she can be extremely one-sided and sensationalist.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Frona

    Cautious interwinement of different time modes and perspectives held a lot of promise. Parts of the plot were carefully strung into a captivating, fight-for-breath whole. Along with the lack of misplaced words and clutter, it was what made the flow neat and tidy, but also what opened the possibility of its pitfall. By definition, stringing pieces in a sequence involves staying within the narrow line and connecting similar components. The same happened to the story - the auspicious start did not Cautious interwinement of different time modes and perspectives held a lot of promise. Parts of the plot were carefully strung into a captivating, fight-for-breath whole. Along with the lack of misplaced words and clutter, it was what made the flow neat and tidy, but also what opened the possibility of its pitfall. By definition, stringing pieces in a sequence involves staying within the narrow line and connecting similar components. The same happened to the story - the auspicious start did not progress and evolve, but only invoked a complementary platitude. The purpose of books based on true stories, is to give us a possible narrative behind the bare facts. Instead of plausible interpretation and deeper understanding this one delivers only more cliches and pompousness. It felt as if the author had mistaken an image of an all American gal, with unresolved daddy issues and girl-power ambitions, for a person. The protagonist and her relations had no uniqueness that would make them convincing, but remained the manufactured products waving from the billboard, that one sometimes wants to get to know, but never can. Yellow pages of an artsy journal would have as much effect. Life can be but a series of coincidences and its end a peak of absurdity, but at least it has some moments of significance, which is a fact this book desperately tries to avoid.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    A brilliant little book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Romie

    Although the Chappaquiddick incident was before my time, Kennedy hagiography wasn't. Still isn't. That myth of Camelot stuff. I hate it. If I'd moved up to Massachusetts any earlier than I did, Ted Kennedy would have been my senator. Although I am a Democrat and agreed with a lot of the work he did, I don't know that I could have voted for him. I reflexively vote against all Kennedys, always. Because of stuff like Chappaquiddick and its aftermath. It's a case where there was probably never going Although the Chappaquiddick incident was before my time, Kennedy hagiography wasn't. Still isn't. That myth of Camelot stuff. I hate it. If I'd moved up to Massachusetts any earlier than I did, Ted Kennedy would have been my senator. Although I am a Democrat and agreed with a lot of the work he did, I don't know that I could have voted for him. I reflexively vote against all Kennedys, always. Because of stuff like Chappaquiddick and its aftermath. It's a case where there was probably never going to be justice and where I don't know what justice might have looked like. The closest we're probably going to get is this book, which is fiction, and which echoes the central events. But only echoes - it's set in a different time, with different people. I have mixed feelings about Joyce Carol Oates. I like the stories she chooses to tell, and I like her dreamlike attacks on and explorations of the ways we socialize or suppress female sexuality. At the same time, I find her prose prosaic (more so when she's trying for poetry) and think that her universal archetypes (if we can call them that) flatten and limit my experience of my own humanity. That's not me in there. Do I like the recasting of the Chappaquiddick story as an allegory for the power imbalances between older men in power and younger women out of power, the ways in which the women are doomed sacrifices? Do I feel more powerless after reading the book, as though Oates is complicit in taking away the agency of a woman who in real life was clearly motivated? I don't know. I do think the book is worth reading and talking about. One thing I can say is it made me more aware of the way we tell crime stories and scandal stories through the eyes of the aggressor. Yes, the victim isn't there to tell their side, but the perp usually isn't telling either. I've thought before about whether we're re-victimizing the victims by treating them as objects (sometimes of veneration, sometimes not) to protect ourselves from existential angst (who wants to self-identify as dead?) but this book brought home the emotional truth of it - along with the possibility that as they're fighting for life, some of them are already starting to absorb a sense of themselves as inherently passive (yet still culpable).

  8. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    Oates inexplicably squanders her gifts in this dreamlike, stream-of-conscious exploration of a young woman’s state of mind, her attraction to a powerful older man, and her eventual doom. The writing is poetic, evocative, and certainly challenging – which is to be expected from a novelist of Oates’ caliber. Unfortunately, despite the attempt to give the characters an almost mythic stature, the ideas on display are rather pedestrian – and are certainly not helped by the very basic, near-formulaic Oates inexplicably squanders her gifts in this dreamlike, stream-of-conscious exploration of a young woman’s state of mind, her attraction to a powerful older man, and her eventual doom. The writing is poetic, evocative, and certainly challenging – which is to be expected from a novelist of Oates’ caliber. Unfortunately, despite the attempt to give the characters an almost mythic stature, the ideas on display are rather pedestrian – and are certainly not helped by the very basic, near-formulaic rendering of a Naïve Idealistic Young Woman and All-Too-Fallible Father Figure.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Haunting rendition of a young woman's last terrifying moments. Oates comes at those moments from a variety of angles, and somehow it's enough to create an entire novella out of it in a way that seems natural. Black Water is a bit like water (how apropos) circling around a drain, getting faster and faster as it nears the inevitable end.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A very long time ago in a distant land known as the 90's, I was working with a woman who also liked to read during her lunch. She asked me if I had any interest in going with her to hear an author she liked go speak. I had never heard of this Joyce Carol Oats woman. (Seriously.) So we went to this huge church in St. Paul and the place was packed. I was surprised - This many people for some author? Hu. Cool. (I know - I was young and pretty darn clueless.) We were all just sitting there and then A very long time ago in a distant land known as the 90's, I was working with a woman who also liked to read during her lunch. She asked me if I had any interest in going with her to hear an author she liked go speak. I had never heard of this Joyce Carol Oats woman. (Seriously.) So we went to this huge church in St. Paul and the place was packed. I was surprised - This many people for some author? Hu. Cool. (I know - I was young and pretty darn clueless.) We were all just sitting there and then all of a sudden you could feel a current in the room. I look over and this tiny woman (who looked like someone's executive assistant) walked in and took the podium. She read. It was really great. A few days after the reading my co-worker brought in this book with a thank you for going with her to the reading. I read the book and I have to say it still haunts me. I knew nothing of the Kennedy scandal when I read this - and I was horrified. I still think about this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    Black Water is Joyce Carol Oates' version of the Chappaquiddick incident - taking place much later in time, and with an older version of Kennedy. I wanted to love this, but I really, really didn't. JCO uses a blunt, visceral style, heavy in repetition, and repeatedly culminating with Kopechne's stand-in, Kelly Kelleher's, thoughts during the crash and as she's accepting her fate. I couldn't stand the way JCO wrote Kelleher, and it turns out I just had to turn to the Amazon description of her to na Black Water is Joyce Carol Oates' version of the Chappaquiddick incident - taking place much later in time, and with an older version of Kennedy. I wanted to love this, but I really, really didn't. JCO uses a blunt, visceral style, heavy in repetition, and repeatedly culminating with Kopechne's stand-in, Kelly Kelleher's, thoughts during the crash and as she's accepting her fate. I couldn't stand the way JCO wrote Kelleher, and it turns out I just had to turn to the Amazon description of her to nail it: "Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command." I hate, hate, hate this approach to this character. Kelleher is supposed to be a 26-year-old political journalist who then ends up fawning over "The Senator" (never given a name) for the fact that he's even talking to her. Someone at that age, and at that point in their career, would be well-versed in men with power and know how to talk to them without going weak at the knees. When you're a journalist, you learn at a very young age that men will try to wield their power to get you into bed. Hell, when you're a woman in any career path, you probably learn this. I had men fawning over me when I was a teenage music journalist! So I just don't buy a journalist in their mid-20s as naive and totally clueless, but Black Water is written in rose-colored glasses. She's written as too naive, and overly vulnerable and romantic for someone who's a 26-year-old political journalist who likely just wants to go get her fuck on. And if you want to shift the conversation to the real life incident, I don't think Mary Jo Kopechne was this much of a naive twit, either - she was a political influencer! She had been in politics for six years when this happened - I don't think she was as naive and romantic as this character that's supposed to be based on her. Maybe I'm just a cynical old broad now, but I would've bought into this if the approach to Kelleher had been less about her being some sort of idealistic "good girl." I don't think that's a flattering or realistic portrait of modern women at that age. Not all women have to feel romantically about a man to want to go to bed with him. Maybe she just wanted to get laid! That would've been fine! I would've much preferred a book that didn't have such a one-sided goody-two-shoes kind of character. It would've made more sense if Kelleher had gone home with him because she wanted to try to scoop a story on him, or if it was simply that she liked sex and saw an opportunity to get laid. Instead, we get her impressions of the Senator contrasted with an old boyfriend. Homegirl, the Senator is not going to be your boyfriend, the Senator just wants to get off. Augh! I also really struggled with the idea that a woman would write another woman to be this stupid. Just, wow. Anyway, I could tell that JCO is a good writer and all of that, but I hated the way she wrote Kelleher, and since the book is from Kelleher's POV, that pretty much killed the whole thing for me. Not a great first impression of JCO , so if anyone has read something of hers that was good, let me know.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Hong

    I appreciate the concept/conceit of this novel: giving a voice to the woman who died in the notorious Chappaquidick accident which briefly engulfed Ted Kennedy's life in scandal. A scandal, which largely sensationalized the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in a car accident whose circumstances are reasonably suspect. But Oates' novel (or what I can recall, having read it in high school), seems less intent on realizing Kopechne's life as it is intent on villainizing Ted Kennedy or rather the ar I appreciate the concept/conceit of this novel: giving a voice to the woman who died in the notorious Chappaquidick accident which briefly engulfed Ted Kennedy's life in scandal. A scandal, which largely sensationalized the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in a car accident whose circumstances are reasonably suspect. But Oates' novel (or what I can recall, having read it in high school), seems less intent on realizing Kopechne's life as it is intent on villainizing Ted Kennedy or rather the archetype of powerful men taking advantage of impressionable young women. I have no problem with Oates attempting to take on the latter archetype (or even Kennedy for that matter) except that she does it in the kind of one-sided screed that diminishes the agency and individualism of the Kopechne-analogue. In speaking about her story, Where are you going? Where have you been? which was turned into a film, Oates remarked on the difficulty of adapting a story for the screen saying that a writer only works in a, "single dimension." (That story, Where are you going... is also the story of a young woman taken in by a charismatic older man, with a similar fatalistic trajectory involving a fateful drive and is also based on true events.) My problem with Oates largely lies in her work existing in a "single dimension," (as well as the fact that great art transcends its medium) and that her characters are often types (helpless and tragic girls vs. knowing and powerful men) that are never transcend their types and never live off the page. She is understandably upset about this recurring pattern of misogyny but never gives us anything but the Chick-tract version of events and exists solely in Oates singular dimensions. Giving a voice to the voiceless is only powerful when that perspective gives us more insight, instead Oates confirms only victim-hood and powerlessness.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cody | codysbookshelf

    Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional take on the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, is a searing and poetic look at the final, desperate moments of a life and what is revealed when a human is cut to her very core. I did feel this novella was just a bit repetitive — as has been pointed out by other reviews on here — but maybe that’s the point. Maybe Oates is going for a spiraling free form: a feeling probably not unlike the sensation of drowning over a span of hours. This quick read cuts like a kni Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional take on the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, is a searing and poetic look at the final, desperate moments of a life and what is revealed when a human is cut to her very core. I did feel this novella was just a bit repetitive — as has been pointed out by other reviews on here — but maybe that’s the point. Maybe Oates is going for a spiraling free form: a feeling probably not unlike the sensation of drowning over a span of hours. This quick read cuts like a knife, and it lingers. Absolutely superb.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Urges

    A repetitive stream of consciousness tale told at the moment of a deadly event in a young woman’s life. Fine writing, but not the best Oates.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Spare, beautifully-written roman à clef about the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident. I love how Oates chose to frame the narration and though the book is short, the main character Kelly Kelleher is fully realized. Her actions, reactions, and decisions felt true. Loved this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Black Water is Oates’ fictionalized account of Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopekne’s ill fated accident on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, which resulted in Kopekne’s death. This short novel is grim territory and I found it painful. I just wanted it to be over, but it did make me wonder a fresh, how any human can walk away from a fatal accident. I wish that Oates had investigated the Senator’s thought process in this novella. The foundation that creates this kind of moral failure would have been fasc Black Water is Oates’ fictionalized account of Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopekne’s ill fated accident on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, which resulted in Kopekne’s death. This short novel is grim territory and I found it painful. I just wanted it to be over, but it did make me wonder a fresh, how any human can walk away from a fatal accident. I wish that Oates had investigated the Senator’s thought process in this novella. The foundation that creates this kind of moral failure would have been fascinating and more gripping exploration of the tragedy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    In Cold Blood is Truman Capote’s 1965 effort to create the “new” genre of the non-fiction novel, a fictionalized version of a true story. Norman Mailer followed in 1968 with Armies of the Night. Joyce Carol Oates creates this kind of novel regularly. Black Water, published in 1992, is one example. This book is about the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 in which Ted Kennedy left the scene of an accident, leaving a young woman passenger in his car to die. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leav In Cold Blood is Truman Capote’s 1965 effort to create the “new” genre of the non-fiction novel, a fictionalized version of a true story. Norman Mailer followed in 1968 with Armies of the Night. Joyce Carol Oates creates this kind of novel regularly. Black Water, published in 1992, is one example. This book is about the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 in which Ted Kennedy left the scene of an accident, leaving a young woman passenger in his car to die. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and received a two-month suspended jail sentence. The incident became a national scandal, and may have influenced Kennedy's decision not to campaign for President of the United States in 1972 and 1976. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chappaqu... The novel deals with details of the victim’s feelings and actions related to the accident. No similar view is presented of Kennedy. The author deals harshly with Senator Kennedy who admittedly failed to notify the police until nine hours after the incident. Some believe that the victim lived for some time after the car was submerged because of an air bubble inside the car but eventually died of suffocation when the oxygen in the bubble was used up. The authorities determined that death was by drowning although there was no autopsy to verify that. This short novel tells a story about an event that was in the news for months in 1969 and 1970. Of course, no one knows the thoughts of the victim and the actions of Kennedy also have unverified aspects. The outcome of the legal process if this had not been a Kennedy is unknown. The book is made up of 32 mostly very short chapters. There is some repetition of phrases to increase the dramatic impact. This is a drama, the life of a young woman ending as her mind both cannot believe that it is happening while at the same time knowing she is dying. And the accident too, one day she would transform the accident, the nightmare of being trapped in a submerged car, the near-drowning, the rescue. It was horrible – hideous. I was trapped and the water was seeping in and he’d gone for help and fortunately there was air in the car, we’d had the windows shut tight, the air-conditioner on, yes I know it’s a miracle if you believe in miracles. But she wasn’t rescued. He didn’t save her or call the people who might have been able if they had been contacted immediately. Four stars for a book that brought me back to an event that occurred over forty years ago when I was twenty-two. An event that many will never completely forget.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chaitra

    This was a wasted exercise. It wasn't offensively bad, but I did not think it was good either. Black Water is inspired by the real life incident of Chappaquiddick. Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and in the accident that resulted, the female passenger Mary Jo Kopechne died. What makes this unlike other accidents is that Senator Kennedy failed to report the accident which almost certainly contributed to her death. Oates decides to concentrate on the unfortunate female passenger, giv This was a wasted exercise. It wasn't offensively bad, but I did not think it was good either. Black Water is inspired by the real life incident of Chappaquiddick. Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and in the accident that resulted, the female passenger Mary Jo Kopechne died. What makes this unlike other accidents is that Senator Kennedy failed to report the accident which almost certainly contributed to her death. Oates decides to concentrate on the unfortunate female passenger, giving her a voice through the book's heroine Kelly Kelleher. It's written in a stream of consciousness narrative as Kelly struggles to find the last pockets of air in the car. It is sufficiently tragic, and compelling for the first couple of chapters. After that, it starts to go around in circles, revealing nothing new or notable. She is (according to Oates), a young, foolish girl, seduced by a powerful, older man. This we know within the first 20 pages. For the next 125+ pages, we're beaten over the head with this. Kelly's life is sketchy and we only learn that she's lonely and sensitive and naïve. She's the perfect victim for the older man, the senator she's written her senior honors thesis on. Charming, listens to her a bit, makes out with her, and then leaves her to die. Neither does the Senator have any motive other than political in letting her die, nor does Kelly become anything more than a victim. I don't know. I'm not sure why this was written - what's the point if you're going to only play in archetypes? If only one point of view is presented, and that too skimming the surface? And because it doesn't go deep, there is nothing to write about - just banal sentences about how Kelly was the chosen one, and then she died but no. I would have appreciated the book more if I knew more than some vague snatches about how Kelly came to be there, how a girl so bright as her could be fooled by a man. I would have definitely rated this higher, had Oates written more than a page with the Senator's motives. Yes, the circumstances of the real life were suspicious, but in this case, he was drunk, he was in an accident and it is likely he might have been in shock. Even giving him a dilemma would have made Oates a better writer, and this a better book. Disappointed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Thompson

    This is a fictionalized account of Ted Kennedy and the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne. Most of the book is the thinking of the fictionalized Mary Jo. Much of the thinking is the confused ramblings of a liberal who substitutes feeling for thinking. This feeling keeps the drowning woman sure that the senator who abandoned her will rescue her. Typical of the lack of real thinking of the drowning liberal is her thinking that the support of abortion by liberals is nobel, but by conservatives is racism. This is a fictionalized account of Ted Kennedy and the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne. Most of the book is the thinking of the fictionalized Mary Jo. Much of the thinking is the confused ramblings of a liberal who substitutes feeling for thinking. This feeling keeps the drowning woman sure that the senator who abandoned her will rescue her. Typical of the lack of real thinking of the drowning liberal is her thinking that the support of abortion by liberals is nobel, but by conservatives is racism. Of course this is typical of overlooking the socialistic roots of racism - the eugenics supported by many democrats, nazis (who were socialists) and even Sanger. Sanger called blacks "human weeds" in "Pivot of Civilization." Other bubble headed thinking is all the other liberal nonsense about "free" medical care and a slew of social programs that are blocked, not by reality, but by mean spirited conservatives. I do not know if Oates meant to make the drowning woman unable to grasp reality, but it was fitting to the story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    In July of 1969, a car drove off a bridge into the tidal waters of Chappaquiddick in Massachusetts--taking the life of Mary Jo Kopechne and with it the presidential aspirations of Senator Ted Kennedy. A blurb on the back of Black Water from the Los Angeles Times calls the book "the ballad of Chappaquiddick" and even though the internal chronology places this after 1990, in Maine not Massachusetts, the young woman involved is named "Kelly Kelleher" and the driver involved is only called "the Sena In July of 1969, a car drove off a bridge into the tidal waters of Chappaquiddick in Massachusetts--taking the life of Mary Jo Kopechne and with it the presidential aspirations of Senator Ted Kennedy. A blurb on the back of Black Water from the Los Angeles Times calls the book "the ballad of Chappaquiddick" and even though the internal chronology places this after 1990, in Maine not Massachusetts, the young woman involved is named "Kelly Kelleher" and the driver involved is only called "the Senator" this is obviously a roman à clef based on that incident. So you have a tragic event with lots of resonance for Americans and by a celebrated author who has won the National Book Award and been a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. So this book should be amazing--but I don't feel it is. I think this is just an author who is a mismatch for me stylistically. I had tried before this her We Were the Mulvaneys and found myself underwhelmed. This particular book left me decidedly unmoved and even feeling some distaste. I think a lot of that is because I could see the seams of her modernist techniques too well. There are chapters of less than 100 words, staccato sentences, sentences without punctuation, ones with unending lists, run-ons, constant looping back to moments during the accident between narrating events earlier in the day and in Kelly's life, and repeated phrases such as "Am I going to die? Like this?" and "And the black water filled her lungs." I recently read a book by Salman Rushdie using such modernist techniques and was charmed--it just worked. Here the literary techniques seemed stagey, and given the real life tragedy depicted within living memory that made this come across to me as exploitative and cheesy. Still, this might make a good introduction to Oates, to see if you might like her style. It's very short, only 154 pages and with a stripped down enough style you could read it in a couple of hours.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    The influence of her faves- Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, etc. A bit like that film Enter the Void in the narrative jumping about. Here's a weird comment: the woman drowning in the car was a little too visual. The real terror is that you can't see ANYTHING. You wouldn't know what was up, where the bubble of air would be... I had an interesting point to make about the capsizing helicopter simulator/ series of dark rooms in a black out thing I did for a qualification to go to offshore platforms but The influence of her faves- Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, etc. A bit like that film Enter the Void in the narrative jumping about. Here's a weird comment: the woman drowning in the car was a little too visual. The real terror is that you can't see ANYTHING. You wouldn't know what was up, where the bubble of air would be... I had an interesting point to make about the capsizing helicopter simulator/ series of dark rooms in a black out thing I did for a qualification to go to offshore platforms but my husband was saying something about dinner, I think? And I lost interest in making it. But essentially, buh-lieve me! Shit is scary! But between this and Zombie, which was also based on a real-life case, I think JCO has a habit of too much of her own assumptions and skating the surface of what happened for dramatic effect and not really enough justice to the source material. Like, this is almost there: it has for sure honed in on a horrific event, but more layers of verisimilitude could've been built upon it to really capture the horror, and as I say, the horror itself in fact required less senses and visuals, because they wouldn't be available. Maybe you can't get on an offshore platform course, JCO, but fill your bath with cold water, turn off the lights and get in and roll around until you don't know which way's up then open your eyes. Then imagine you're strapped the fuck in and up is way way up, if you even knew what that is? Also imagine, oddly, that your body's flooded with strangely dissociating neurotransmitters and such that dislocate you from the horror, and there's a weird, matter-of-fact functionality about how you would think: 'Oh, there we go, off into the water. Guess I'll get my seatbelt off. Oh, good: a pocket of air. I'll breathe that for a bit then. I really liked this dress!' I think.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Joyce Carol Oates managed to write an entire novella that, in real-time, takes place in the course of about five minutes. And very artfully done. It’s a book that can easily be consumed in a single sitting: yesterday I bought it, walked to the park and sat down on a bench, and finished it about an hour and a half later. It’s the type of read that’s broken into short segments, each segment leading you to automatically turn to the next. The rhythm of the prose synchs with the terror of the novella Joyce Carol Oates managed to write an entire novella that, in real-time, takes place in the course of about five minutes. And very artfully done. It’s a book that can easily be consumed in a single sitting: yesterday I bought it, walked to the park and sat down on a bench, and finished it about an hour and a half later. It’s the type of read that’s broken into short segments, each segment leading you to automatically turn to the next. The rhythm of the prose synchs with the terror of the novella’s circumstances, which is a characteristic I love so much about Oates. Black Water tells the story of an all-American type young woman (Kelly) who meets a senator at a friend’s barbecue. She leaves the party with him, and his car plunges into sewages, enclosing the car in a vessel of filthy, rising waters. This is where present time begins: the moment of the wreck. The reader is then taken back in time to learn random details of Kelly’s past, along with the day’s events that lead up to the wreck. We even learn that she’d written her college thesis on the senator himself. Although nearly every page references politics, Black Water is less of a political story and more about truth/deceit, and outer appearances vs. true personality. I didn’t realize it as I read, but the scenario closely resembles the famous Chappaquiddick incident of 1969—although the book obviously isn’t directly about this incident, considering it takes place in the early 90s.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Misha

    Black Water is a haunting narrative of the final moments of Kelly Kelleher, a young woman whose impulsive decision to pursue her attraction to an older man leads to her death in a car accident. Kelleher, of course, is a stand-in for Mary Jo Kopechne, the young woman who lost her life in a car accident with Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick in 1969. I found it interesting that Oates chose to update the story to the early '90s (contemporary for when the book was written) and write The Senator as Kenne Black Water is a haunting narrative of the final moments of Kelly Kelleher, a young woman whose impulsive decision to pursue her attraction to an older man leads to her death in a car accident. Kelleher, of course, is a stand-in for Mary Jo Kopechne, the young woman who lost her life in a car accident with Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick in 1969. I found it interesting that Oates chose to update the story to the early '90s (contemporary for when the book was written) and write The Senator as Kennedy in his mid-50s rather than the young rising political star whose presidential aspirations were thwarted by the scandal. But this isn't a story about Kennedy's lost dreams. It's about giving voice to the young woman who lost her life, whose name has become a footnote in the history of political scandals. The story is fractured, fragmented and repetitive, but it's a structure that works to capture those last frantic, hopeful moments when death is closing in but Kelly keeps faith in her Senator to rescue her. It's sad and tragic and thoroughly absorbing. I felt for Kelly. I even felt for The Senator, who was a very real, very flawed man trying to live up to others' expectations of him.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    I was very much in doubt whether I should give this book 3 or 4 stars. I LOVED it but at the same time I felt like it was way too short, and it left me with a jumbled feeling inside. I think both the storyline and the writing style was what attracted me the most to this story. We follow a 26-year-old girl and her thoughts as she is drowning in a car in the river near Maine. Because of that, the writing style is very much stream-of-consciousness; a writing style that I absolutely love! Some of th I was very much in doubt whether I should give this book 3 or 4 stars. I LOVED it but at the same time I felt like it was way too short, and it left me with a jumbled feeling inside. I think both the storyline and the writing style was what attracted me the most to this story. We follow a 26-year-old girl and her thoughts as she is drowning in a car in the river near Maine. Because of that, the writing style is very much stream-of-consciousness; a writing style that I absolutely love! Some of the passages were lovely, some of them were a bit confusing, but overall this book left an impression on me. I might go back and change my rating to four stars once I've had time to digest it :) This was my first book by Joyce Carol Oates, and I'm now very curious to read something else by her.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Auckerman

    This is a fictionalized version of the accident that Ted Kennedy had where the woman died. It is told from the point of view of the woman and the two –-three hours that she spent trapped before she died. I remember being horrified by how he acted and yet time blurred that. I know it was mentioned briefly when he died, but she was really a forgotten person.

  26. 4 out of 5

    TK421

    A short trip into the depths of a woman's mind as she slowly drowns. With a political bent, this is a timely novella that barely skims the surface of love, politics, youth, and the possibility of what is in store for a young woman's future. RECOMMENDED

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lise Petrauskas

    Wow, this book is so topical! I didn't intend it to fit a theme, but it fits right in to the #metoo movement. In the first few pages, I was worried that the book was self-consciously experimental in form, but in fact it ended up working for me. It's a fast read and I was highly motivated to understand what was happening and the twists and turns the book took into the past and future brought certain details into sharp focus the way a narrow passage forces a a person walking through to confront wh Wow, this book is so topical! I didn't intend it to fit a theme, but it fits right in to the #metoo movement. In the first few pages, I was worried that the book was self-consciously experimental in form, but in fact it ended up working for me. It's a fast read and I was highly motivated to understand what was happening and the twists and turns the book took into the past and future brought certain details into sharp focus the way a narrow passage forces a a person walking through to confront whatever is on the wall at the turning. These glimpsed details were revealing and in a short book created a vivid picture of the world. I also really like the Oates' use of repetition and italics. These syntactical elements helped establish a cadence and urgency, circular, intense. Okay. That's my first draft of a review. (I'm trying not to let myself off the hook of writing a review because I feel overwhelmed by the attempt to summarize my experience of the book.. If I think of something else, by golly I'll add it!)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Christiansen

    If you don't understand why Joyce Carol Oates is a literary pillar of our times, then you obviously have not read "Black Water." Go, right now, run to your computer, sink your literature-impoverished fingertips into its keys. Now! Before it's too late! If you don't, then you only have yourself to blame, and, the haggard, wrinkled figures that you see in your final thoughts, just may be attending angels in disguise. There are great books and there are legendary books. The poetry of the inner world. If you don't understand why Joyce Carol Oates is a literary pillar of our times, then you obviously have not read "Black Water." Go, right now, run to your computer, sink your literature-impoverished fingertips into its keys. Now! Before it's too late! If you don't, then you only have yourself to blame, and, the haggard, wrinkled figures that you see in your final thoughts, just may be attending angels in disguise. There are great books and there are legendary books. The poetry of the inner world. If there is any one feature only great books lack, it is this one. The legendary book flows like black water, a rising river wrought of soul-stained ink, overflowing, flooding, off the pages and into your veins, and then all through your body, endowing your mind with a new set of eyes, your heart with fluttering wings, your soul with tangoing poetry, all riding the raging black river, seeking to flood your literary life with dizzying oxygen. Black Water. We are seized and yanked into the flood of a young woman's mind in the throes of an automobile accident, unnecessary, unexpected as death, her frailty, her fragility, her insecure passions, her desperate need for love and acceptance, her sensuality, her incredulity, her piteous hope, her clinging, final, muddy thoughts, her senseless tragedy, her whirling psyche, her dreams, her barrage of caressing memory, her ebullience of feeling, her tenacious stubborn final logic. Black Water. Joyce Carol Oates gives us a mosaic, vivid vision, a luxuriant, rare glimpse into what it was like to be Kelly Kelleher in a desperate last flickering moment of life, to be swallowed by the black water of well-disguised usury, to feel one's mind cling to the final bastions of life and hope and womanly need. Black Water. Why don't you see for yourself what a legendary author does with language. Read it or be forever impoverished. Yours in literature, J.G.C. Comment Comment | Permalink

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Heaven

    After reading this novella, and beforehand reading her short story 'Heat', I can safely say Joyce Carol Oates is one of the best writers I've come across. In 'Black Water' we follow Kelly Kelleher, who is involved in a car accident. The car flies off a road into a swamp, and we are stuck with the trapped Kelly as the water begins to rise inside the vehicle. Due to her entrapment, the narrative's progression relies on Kelly's memories and flashbacks, but every detail is necessary. Oates' use of d After reading this novella, and beforehand reading her short story 'Heat', I can safely say Joyce Carol Oates is one of the best writers I've come across. In 'Black Water' we follow Kelly Kelleher, who is involved in a car accident. The car flies off a road into a swamp, and we are stuck with the trapped Kelly as the water begins to rise inside the vehicle. Due to her entrapment, the narrative's progression relies on Kelly's memories and flashbacks, but every detail is necessary. Oates' use of description, dialogue and imagery is fantastic, helping to evoke a claustrophobic discomfort that makes us want to read on, gasping for breath as we reach the final page. Oates captures the idea of drowning brilliantly through her contrast of long/short sentences and paragraphs, through her distortion of time frame and through her quick, almost stream-of-consciousness like, writing style. Personally, I felt the passages that focus on American politics were slightly tedious yet, as said before, they are necessary. What I found interesting was how Oates took a public story (this narrative has parallels with the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident) and made it a personal one, making a comment on American society in doing so. So yes, I think it's clear that Oates has made quite the impression on me. I intend to read more of her work in the near future. Powerful stuff.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Rathbun

    How do you keep a reader interested in a story that everyone already knows the ending to? The Senator crashes the car into the water; the girl drowns. The only way is to get into the girl's mind. Certain phrases or ideas are repeated in the way one's thoughts continually dwell on a certain subject. In that way it's stream-of-consciousness, but I found it easier to follow than some writing in that style. The girl's life in a sense flashes before your eyes, but not in order from birth to death, bu How do you keep a reader interested in a story that everyone already knows the ending to? The Senator crashes the car into the water; the girl drowns. The only way is to get into the girl's mind. Certain phrases or ideas are repeated in the way one's thoughts continually dwell on a certain subject. In that way it's stream-of-consciousness, but I found it easier to follow than some writing in that style. The girl's life in a sense flashes before your eyes, but not in order from birth to death, but circling round, certain events repeated, especially events of that afternoon leading up to her getting in the car with the Senator. One of the most poignant parts to me was as she is meeting the senator, she is imagining how she'll describe him to others later. Oates adds, "How crucial for us to rehearse the future, in words. Never to doubt that you will live to utter them." This was a relatively short book and in a way a slower read, but it left an overall impression. You can imagine her life slowly, slowly slipping away as she desperately gasps for air, as her mind continually replays the events of that afternoon, as she keeps calling, calling to the man she vainly hopes will rescue her. (L, S)

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