Black Water and Other Depressions

Originally published on 26 January 2012

While I’m playing with the site and its appearance and trying to talk a friend into posting on this blog with me, I thought I’d actually do what I said in the first place I’d do and review something. Actually, this will be more of a review/ recommendation. And since it’s a short recommendation, there is pretty much nothing stopping you from running out right this second and getting the book. I read it in a day… two ‘reading sessions’… and it was a day well-spent.

The book is Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water, and it was recommended to me by an acquaintance I met through the /r/books page on www.reddit.com. (Have you been to Reddit? Do you value your spare time? If your answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ then don’t click that link. Please. For the love of sweet potatoes, do. not. click…) Of course, it wasn’t that hard to recommend I read Joyce Carol Oates… I’ve read a decent smattering of her stuff, and I’m always up to reading more. Most of her books, even the ones that aren’t specifically gothic or creepy or horror-oriented, have a good heavy dose of creepiness to them, and that’s something I appreciate. Again, a lot of horror books seem to spend most of their time throwing demons or serial killers or evil vacuum cleaners (my cat asked me to add that) in your face and shouting “THIS IS SCARY! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE SCARED!” Ms Oates, however…

I would probably go so far as to say that Black Water isn’t a novel (or novella… it’s 154 pages in my copy) so much as it’s a long prose poem. The event itself, a car driven by a drunken senator in New England, happens in the first paragraph and ends in the last half-sentence. The rest of the book is nothing but flashbacks, flashforwards, and brief descriptions of what’s going on around the protagonist (a young writer who happened to be the senator’s passenger) that loop in and on themselves, repeating themselves, referring to themselves, and even sometimes referencing things that hadn’t happened just yet. It could just as easily been written as a long poem, though I think that with fewer words than it has, it would lose some of its effect. Part of the reason I can definitely call this ‘horror’ is because it bombarded my brain with sense, sensation, and the inevitability of what I knew was going to happen at the end.

Also, I should not have finished it just before falling asleep. There’s another reason I had no problem getting up this morning.

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