ID – Joyce Carol Oates

When I think of Joyce Carol Oates writing, I think of stories that don’t back down and are often thought of as tough.  Tough characters.  Tough subject matter.  In this latest short story, I.D., Oates writes about a young middle school student named, Lisette, who must identify a body that could be her mother.  The reader doesn’t actually get to that point in the story until they slog through paragraph after paragraph of uninspired writing.  We see Lisette in class, and she seems to have problems with her eyes, and with thinking straight and is a little buzzed off drinking part of a beer in the morning.  Later on, we learn how she came to have these problems.  Overall the story has the shape of an episode from Law & Order: SVU, but without the action, pacing, and sympathy.  Quality wise this story is severely lacking.  Even the viewpoint of Lisette feels false.  It doesn’t feel like a teenage African American girl from Atlantic City, but a poorly wrought character by an out of touch writer who may not get out as much as she used to.

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