Book Review: Cutting Edge edited by Joyce Carol Oates | More2Read
 

Cutting Edge edited by Joyce Carol Oates

 



Joyce Carol Oates pulls out all the stops in this chilling female-centric noir collection featuring brand-new writing from Margaret Atwood, Aimee Bender, Edwidge Danticat, and more.

Joyce Carol Oates, a queenpin of the noir genre, has brought her keen and discerning eye to the curation of an outstanding anthology of brand-new top-shelf short stories (and poems by Margaret Atwood!). While bad men are not always the victims in these tales, they get their due often enough to satisfy readers who are sick and tired of the gendered status quo, or who just want to have a little bit of fun at the expense of a crumbling patriarchal society. This stylistically diverse collection will make you squirm in your seat, stay up at night, laugh out loud, and inevitably wish for more.

Featuring brand-new stories by: Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood (poems), Valerie Martin, Aimee Bender, Edwidge Danticat, Sheila Kohler, S.A. Solomon, S.J. Rozan, Lucy Taylor, Cassandra Khaw, Bernice L. McFadden, Jennifer Morales, Elizabeth McCracken, Livia Llewellyn, Lisa Lim, and Steph Cha.

From the introduction by Joyce Carol Oates:

“The particular strength of the female noir vision isn’t a recognizable style but rather a defiantly female, indeed feminist, perspective. Cutting Edge brings together a considerable range of twenty-first-century female voices, from sociological realism (Cha) to Grand Guignol surrealism (Oates); from erotic playfulness (Bender) to dark fairy-tale determinism (Khaw). Here is a brilliantly deadpan graphic story by Lisa Lim, and here are brilliantly executed poems by Margaret Atwood. Artwork by Laurel Hausler is striking and original, sinister and triumphant; Noir Dame (on the front cover) is the perfect image of a mysterious beauty, far more than merely skin-deep, and essentially unknowable.”


Praise for Cutting Edge:

“This collection of feminist crime tales edited by the one and only Joyce Carol Oates is marketed to ‘readers who are sick and tired of the status quo, or who just want to have a little bit of fun at the expense of a crumbling patriarchal society.’ Well, isn’t that everyone?”
–CrimeReads, included in the Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019

“The 15 stories and six poems in this slim yet weighty all-original noir anthology–contributors include Margaret Atwood and Edwidge Danticat–are razor-sharp and relentless in their portrayal of life, offering snapshots of dysfunction, everyday toil, and brief joy…Each story sears but does not cauterize, leaving protagonists and readers raw. As Oates points out in her introduction, and the stories hauntingly evoke, noir’s strength has very little to do with man-centric plots and everything to do with female ascendance. Fans of contemporary crime fiction won’t want to miss this one.”
–Publishers Weekly

“‘Is there a distinctive female noir?’ asks Oates in her introduction. This collection may not settle that question, but it goes a long way toward supplying candidates for an emerging canon. There are 15 stories here, all but one of them new, and half a dozen new poems…the average [story] is high enough to satisfy readers of all genders.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“This collection enlivens…flattened archetypes by retelling the noir narrative from the new perspectives of teenage girls, women hired hands, and mothers of children.”
–Book Riot, included in 9 of the Best Noir Fiction Retellings

“This all original anthology features 15 stories, in which a lot of bad men get their comeuppances, by Steph Cha, Edwidge Danticat, S.J. Rozan, and other women authors. Margaret Atwood contributes six poems.”
–Publishers Weekly, Fall 2019 Adult Announcements (Mysteries & Thrillers)

“All of the stories in this collection are excellent, and I definitely recommend it for any connoisseur of noir looking to expand their repertoire with women writers.”
–BookRiot, included in a list of “Noir by Women, Not Just Femme Fatales”


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Review:

In Joyce Carol Oate’s introduction she mentions this about the collection:

“Cutting Edge brings together a considerable range of twenty-first-century female voices, from sociological realism (Cha) to Grand Guignol surrealism (Oates); from erotic playfulness (Bender) to dark fairy-tale determinism (Khaw). Here is a brilliantly deadpan graphic story by Lisa Lim, and here are brilliantly executed poems by Margaret Atwood. Artwork by Laurel Hausler is striking and original, sinister and triumphant; Noir Dame (on the front cover) is the perfect image of a mysterious beauty, far more than merely skindeep, and essentially unknowable.”

 

One of These Nights by Livia Llewellyn

“It’s time to get wet” in Tacoma young women, friends, and a father in car about to go to a pool.
The girls go for a swim, some friends just go too far and then there is the rivalry and stepping into adulthood, but they are still fifteen partaking in things that are just not right and fitting of an age of fifteen.
Contained within girls in a friendship, being favorites and new ones interloping, along with leadership and toxic rivalry and something else also you must read to discover.
The mentioned complexities and other terrible fates skillfully crafted noir tale drawing the reader along in this compelling flowing deadly tale.
I am sure Tacoma has seen better times.

Thief By Steph Cha

Mourners in Koreatown, a gathering after murder of a twenty-one year old.
The scene opens with the feast after the burial and a mother in the whirlwind of loss of her first born, one she tells, “she would have traded anyone for Isaac.”
Then there is talk of money, of all things a mother didn’t need that.
Family tragedy and drama with personal and social ramifications, something Steph Cha writes about so well recently this year with her debut novel, ‘Your House Will Pay.’

 

A History of the World in Five Objects by S.J. Rozan

In an apartment a women doing usual tasks but something still weighing heart and mind tender and traumatic past returning running its course with memories in the apartment. Empathic writing visceral with all right crafting and details with devastating effect, a short must-read.

“It was quite some time before she was able to touch a knife again, after that day.”

The Hunger by Lisa Lim

Avoiding drive-bys and then being butchered and found in suitcase. Lilly is not happy of this end. There is dark humor present and visible in this excerpt:

“So no. She wasn’t about to cry. Tears were for the weak. She had clothes to fold, mouths to feed, and a husband to bury. She didn’t have the luxury to mourn. So she smoked. And thought of food instead.”

Death and hunger in a unique telling.

Too Many Lunatics by Lucy Taylor

Terrible things a young women had to face and witness, with call of sanity and reason with all the terribleness weighing, what would it be, one act a claw hammer can do.
This one about abuse and protecting kin, two sisters one caring for another.
One in denial another an avenger wanting to protect and provide safety, the tale leaves one pondering facts, hallmarks of nicely done tale one that keeps you thinking, even if only for short time after.

An Early Specimen By Elizabeth McCracken

Interesting perception and words combined evoking the snapshot of the scene like this one:
“She remembered reading about another museum across the river, of wax anatomical models from the eighteenth century. Flayed women and lonely hearts, literal lonely hearts by themselves in glass cabinets, next to the lonely livers and lonely lungs.
A museum of waxworks would have to be kept cool, surely, even in the Old World.
Before she’d come to Italy, she’d been in the woods, but now she was in the jungle, the arms and legs of other people like vines that threatened to wrap around her.”

She may find a snippet of happiness, the tourist, in her wonderings and excursion into a museum.

Impala by S. A. Solomon

A women’s heart at battle with many things with men, male evils the most, and the legacy of her mother whose been seen as uneducated but was not in her light and weighs up and tells of her existence being dumped young and then having to fight through field of interloping things and one particular drive in an impala this tale takes you through.
Prose potent, and poetic.

“She hadn’t been asked to be born a girl. She would have preferred to be male. Not because she didn’t feel “female.” But because males were in charge.”

“The detectives said it looked like a gang symbol, and after all, she was the girlfriend of Panda, the “alleged” leader of the local clique of a notorious international criminal gang the authorities had a hard-on for.”



 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 17 November 2019