My introduction to the great Joyce Carol Oates was reading “Three Girls” in a high school English class. In a Kansas public school, we were not just allowed to read, but assigned to read something that acknowledged lesbianism. They’re not even supposed to teach us evolution. (For the record, legislation notwithstanding, evolution is taught and joking about it is only cool if you’re one of us.)
All this I relay by way of admission that my perception of the tantalizingly titled “Black Water” was predetermined. In my defense, Kelly Kelleher’s affair with the Senator is inherently scandalous. But there’s much more to the radical nature of the book than its scandal. Oates’s toying with time and disarming disregard for traditional rhythm is far more interesting. Or should be. She remains in my mind, above all else, a beacon of enlightenment.