Wednesday, May 7, 2014

HIGH CRIME AREA by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates writing horror fiction? Odd, you say. I mean, here's a literary author known for delicate portrayals of social register types, delineating character with poetic studies of cultural rituals and mores. In HIGH CRIME AREA, though, Oates shows us the subtle side of horror. With the subtitle "Tales of Darkness and Dread," the audiobook version is atmospherically presented with the administrations of multiple actors, including Julia Whelan, Tamara Marston, Chris Patton, Luci Christian, Donna Postal, and Ray Chase (whose engaged reading of the opening story features a twisted view of a convent named Craigmillnar, where Gestapo worthy nuns perform cruel punishments on their helpless charges.) Here's a story book which proves my contention that cozy and mostly bloodless horror can be more effective than what Hollywood produces, which is slasher plots starring mindless vamps and villains. I was reminded of Ray Bradbury, whose horror comes at you askance, with accessible language befitting the genre, and yet without the buildup to a twist ("look, baby…something bright, something shiny…a scalpel.") Oates is a female Bradbury here, with unique slices of horrific reality from the dark sides of human nature. (7 hours on 6 CDs; Highbridge Audio) 

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