Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Black Water

As I'm sure you are aware, Ted Kennedy died this week. Let me start off by saying that I'm very liberal and supportive of his work in the Senate, but I don't want to make this into a political post. During yesterday's conversation on the radio about Kennedy's life, I couldn't help but think of his earlier life and the terrible behavior he exhibited surrounding the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. Being the bookish person I am, I then thought "what would Joyce Carol Oates say?" Oates is the author of Black Water, a novel based on the Chappaquiddick incident. Luckily for me, I'm not the only person who had this thought, as the Guardian asked Oates to write an essay about Kennedy. I'm resisting the urge to copy and paste the entire essay here, as it is quite wonderful. Oates never hesitates to say the most uncomfortable idea, the one that sticks in your head and has you returning to her work, even though it makes you squirm.

Black Water is a simple read in some ways - at only 160 pages (according to Amazon), the plot can be summarized in just a sentence:
A senator seduces young Kelly Kelleher at a Fourth of July picnic, and as they head for his hotel, his rented Toyota swerves off the unnamed road and into the black water.
Of course, it's the writing and the depth to which Oates plumbs this young woman's dying thoughts that make it such a powerful read.

Buy Black Water on Amazon.


  1. I read this without knowing at all what it was about or that it was based on that incident. I remember it freaking me out. Drowning is no good way to go.

  2. I well remember Chappaquiddick as well, but didn't realize there was a novel based on it. I'm going to write this one down.

  3. I think I didn't read all of Black Water because it unfolds like the plot of Groundhog Day, right? She just keeps repeating certain facts? Very tiresome.

    Sorry I can't contribute beyond that infantile analysis.


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