Friday, April 16, 2010

Theft – Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates - June 16, 1938

Oates delivers once again. From my online searching, it seems that this particular story is pretty popular with educators.

So, knowing that – if you are a student looking for an essay discussing “Theft”, I’m sorry, I can’t help you here.

I’d like to comment on the photo I decided to include with this post. The photos I like to include on my posts tend to be in black and white. When I find an image of an author, and I decide to include it and it’s in color, I will purposely change it to black and white. I don’t like the distraction that the color photo has at the beginning of the entry. There are only a few color photos, and of course, the whole entry I devoted to JCO, had a color photo of her.

I decided on the above photo for several reasons.

I think that this photo is about as close as I can get to the age that JCO was as the main character in “Theft”. I also notice a few things that seem to me uncharacteristic of Oates in the photo.

Her hair has obviously been colored. If not, that is the shiniest natural black hair I have ever seen.

She has paid close attention to the tweezing of her eyebrows – her already large eyes are even more accentuated – she appears to have even applied eyeliner to her top lid.

She has decided on a vivid red color of lipstick which really draws out her lips against what has to be a solid cover of foundation over her entire face. We know the underlying reasons why bright RED, WET, SHINY lips look good to men.

*(side note – I’m married, my wife uses cosmetics and as a man, I was curious as to what each did for the wearer and what sort of usefulness they have in accentuating the beauty of a woman – this is the only explanation I can offer as to why I know about the makeup.)

A silver bracelet on her left wrist, silver and pearl (rather large) earrings and finally a gold ring with what appears to be a red stone.

A rather bland yellowish sweater is the only piece of clothing visible and does a fine job of not being too distracting.

I wonder how she felt for this photo shoot. I wonder how she felt about her beauty. She was educated enough to know the power she had as a woman, and I wonder how well she chose to use it navigating though the landscape she was on- in her life.

As a young woman, I think Oates was rather pretty. She really must have turned some heads in the literary world – her looks, her genius.

She married young and was off the market. – Did she have affairs? Did she secretly long for another man? I think she must have. It’s only natural as a human. I know she was fond of Updike...

If any other author had been included in this edition of BASS with a story as long as “Theft”, I think I would have absolutely lost my mind. Oates is the only one that could have, and did hold my interest throughout this entire story. Of course, it didn’t hurt to see parallels between the main character and the author herself.

Gardner was a fan of Oates from the beginning. He recognized her talent early. The two had a friendship and it extended to her having him over for meals on a couple of occasions.

She had the same reaction towards Gardner’s “Moral Fiction” book, and was sad to see him say such things about her friends and fellow authors.

I think Gardner’s inclusion of her in this collection was to honor her. He wanted her and others to know how high he held her.

Gardner placed her story in the last position in the collection. As far as I can tell, he stacked those authors that he wished to promote at the front of the book – in a place I would assume most readers would find them – and then the other authors followed. He knew that readers would seek out Oates and in placing her in the last position, he wasn’t hurting her exposure.


Upon finishing this story, I had reached the end of the BASS 1982. My next post will cover my opinion of this collection.

-So, “Theft” –

Again, the rawness and reality of Oates shines through. You have two young college aged girls sitting in a room at one point with one of them discussing the graphic details of her sexual life. Oates is great at presenting this scene – frank and explicit enough to make you feel mildly uncomfortable but at the same time allowing you, pushing you- no pulling you into a position to peek behind the curtain a little more.

The psychological study Oates presents keeps you captivated and also questions your past and any sort of similarities you may have with the characters.

It’s a long story but reads fast. Details, details, details – pull you through the pages.

Oates rounds out this collection and I’m pleased Gardner fished off with her. It made the conclusion of the anthology much more pleasant.

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