“Black Water”January 16, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Fiction | 2 Comments
I read Black Water, by Joyce Carol Oates, for the 1% Well Read Challenge. I’ve always thought she was great, and it’s exciting that I haven’t yet read the other three titles of hers on the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.
Black Water is a fictionalized account of the Chappaquiddick incident. I wouldn’t have realized this; it happened in 1969 when my parents were still in junior high school. Senator Edward Kennedy was the driver of a car that overturned into the water near Martha’s Vineyard. He survived, while his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. I discovered that the FBI website has scanned copies of its files relating to this case.
It’s not necessary to know this background before reading the novella, though it’s helpful to know that Oates often draws material from stories in the news. (My Sister, My Love is about JonBenet Ramsay; Blonde is about Marilyn Monroe, etc). One thing I admire about her novels is that they make what could be a dry, abstract blurb into vivid, breathtaking reality.
Black Water is brilliantly imagined. Its brevity is part of that brilliance, as it emphasizes how quickly events spun out of control. A masterpiece of terror, Black Water will leave you gasping.