The remarkably prolific writer Joyce Carol Oates keeps producing remarkable works of fiction. Her latest short story collection, Zero-Sum, continues her fascination with the darkness of the human psyche: a frightening desire for revenge, erotic obsession, bodily revulsion, and fantasies of suicide and infanticide. These often sinister stories - no one does ‘creepy’ quite like Oates - conclude with dystopian visions about a planet ravaged by the effects of climate change. Zero-sum will provoke serious reflection about the complexities of human motivation and behaviour, and the kind of future we wish to create. Cleverly crafted, psychologically astute, and written with stylistic flair and a mordant sense of humour.
Zero-sum games are played for lethal stakes in these arresting stories by one of America’s most acclaimed writers. A brilliant young philosophy student bent on seducing her famous philosopher-mentor finds herself outmaneuvered; diabolically clever high school girls wreak a particularly apt sort of vengeance on sexual predators in their community; a woman stalked by a would-be killer may be confiding in the wrong former lover; a young woman is morbidly obsessed by her unfamiliar new role as “mother.” In the collection’s longest story, a much-praised cutting-edge writer cruelly experiments with “drafts” of his own suicide.
In these powerfully wrought stories that hold a mirror up to our time, Joyce Carol Oates has created a world of erotic obsession, thwarted idealism, and ever-shifting identities. Provocative and stunning, Zero-Sum reinforces Oates’s standing as a literary treasure and an artist of the mysterious interior life.
‘Zero-Sum is brilliant – bloodied, breathless, weird’ A. K. Blakemore, author of The Manningtree Witches