man crazy, a book review

September 4, 2007

i just finished reading this novel, ‘man crazy,’ by joyce carol oates.  if you’ve never read her it is about time you got to your local used bookstore and found a little piece of word-crack.  i’ve read her short story “it’s all over now, baby blue,” about a thousand times, there’s even a film based on it starring a very young laura dern and an even younger, and creepier, treat williams.  she has a young-adult centered novel called ‘because it is bitter and because it is my heart’ that is not only beautiful, but has one of the best titles ever.

anyway, ‘man crazy’ is a vivid and evocative book that had me shuddering and near vomiting at different intervals.  there is so much description–all of it integral, not extraneous–that you would have to be blind not to see the images she is creating.  the fascinating thing about the novel, or at least one of them, is the fact that though the characters are at times despicable and horrifying, there is a vulnerable and aching sadness to the whole lot that makes it difficult to write them off.  even the satan worshipping murderer has, we learn, moments of tenderness but, as is typical of the men in the oates fiction i have read, he often acts on these tendernesses  by reacting violently towards the women in his life.

i’m not sure i would recommend this book.  it is hard to say ‘go out and read this novel’ when that would mean i am suggesting you read 280+  pages of mutilation, abuse, sexual deviancy, and–in one instance–human sacrifice.  however, it is a helluva read.  i actually left it at school today and when i got home and realized it wasn’t here i made alex drive me back up to get it, and after working 7-5:30 toaday, that says a lot about how badly i wanted to read the last 40 pages or so.

so if you need a book that will devour you as much as you are devouring it, or just want a little break that helps you recognize that gee, your life maybe really isn’t so bad after all, then i would check out ‘man crazy,’ a booze and sex soaked romp down the devil’s highway that dares to ask if there is such a thing as redemption.