Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Book Review - I'll Take You There by Joyce Carol Oates
The unnamed main character in Joyce Carol Oates’ novel I’ll Take You There is not your average woman; her mother died shortly after giving birth to her, her family ignores her and treats her as if she was the reason why her mother died and she later engages in an obsessive love with an older black man who is a graduate student in Philosophy. Add to the fact that this novel is set in the turbulent 60s and it makes for even more of an interesting story. I will admit that this is the first novel by Oates that I had ever read and I found myself wanting to know more about not only the unnamed woman who calls herself Anellia at times but also about Oates as well. There was a lyrical seduction in Oates’ words as she wrote out the thoughts of a sheltered, unloved and highly intelligent woman that simply had no identity. At her university, she immersed herself in the snooty sorority Kappa Gamma Pi, only to be ousted when it was revealed that she was partly Jewish and not “desirable” to her fellow Kappa sisters. She is reduced once more to being a blank canvas.
Then suddenly, it all changes in the form of Vernor Mathieus, a black man who catches both her eyes and heart; if he could only see her, then she would exist again. She did not care that being seen with him would cause scandals (this is the 60s after all) but only that he knew of her love. Since she never received such an emotion from her father, grandparents and older brothers, she was determined to get it from Vernor. Her father had disappeared from her life, leaving such a void that could never be filled, not even with Vernor. When Vernor and Anellia part ways, she is back to being a blank canvas until another moment changes it all for her: a being from her past rises to the surface and she confronts it, not knowing of the outcome nor caring. All she wants to do is feel and be felt but even that wish had an expiration date.
Oates’ writing is purely magickal; one cannot help but be swept up in her caresses filled with words and frayed thoughts of a mixed up woman who is stronger than she appears. After reading her bibliography of published works, it was no surprise to me to know how much people enjoyed reading Oates. She has a voice all to her own, a voice that is a far cry from the one she gave to Anellia. This is a book that I will remember for quite some time, or at least until I can get my hands upon another one of her novels. At the end of this deeply moving book, Anellia offers to “take us there”; thanks to Oates, I can truly believe it.