The Falls

The Falls - Joyce Carol Oates This book met my standard for keeping me engrossed on the subway. Oates is certainly an engaging writer, with a flair for Gothic excess (sex in a graveyard, forsooth). When I saw the story was to be multi-generational, I hoped for a more robust pattern, perhaps along the lines of Wuthering Heights, where the second generation, though repeating some of the happenings of the first generation, has a better outcome. But aside from the said graveyard sex, where the son has a bizarre sexual encounter with a woman who was only suspected of (and did not have) a sexual relationship with the father, I didn't see much of that going on. Instead, the story of the difficult Ariah trifurcates into the stories of her three children, and there is a rather perfunctory-feeling attempt at reunification of both the plots and the family itself at a memorial for the quasi-heroic and misunderstood husband and father.

I found the political part of the story - the beginnings of the Love Canal scandal and the rottenness at the heart of the business/political class - laid on *just* thick enough. Any more, and I would have complained that Oates' research was overwhelming the story. On the other hand, the evocation of the Falls themselves, in all their magnificent, romantic and anti-romantic, deadly, mysterious, curiously familiar glory, was wonderful, and I could definitely have lived with more of the same.

Anyway, structural complaints aside, I really appreciated the strong imagery and storytelling, and I would most certainly read more by this author (this was my first).