Wild Nights! Stories about the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway

Written by Joyce Carol Oates
Review by Tess Allegra

The boundless creativity of Joyce Carol Oates tackles American literary greats and their works in a new collection of stories. Imagining the final days of a spectrum of complex American authors, each tale is cast in the style and flavor of the famous writer, with added touches from Oates, who takes a seed of an idea and yields a riveting tale in full bloom.

Edgar Allan Poe, always craving solitude for writing, finds it as the sole occupant of a lighthouse where he keeps a diary of accelerating intensity compounded by having this wish. The seemingly humorous story, EDICKINSONREPLILUXE, melds the poet Emily’s past with a futuristic present when a married couple buys a lifelike replica of her which soon haunts their home and their marriage. Henry James, the Master, tries to master himself when he volunteers as a civilian to help injured World War I soldiers in a British hospital and discovers shocking new emotions propelling him into dangerous yet ecstatic territory. Ernest Hemingway’s roughest memories come out full force as he stares down the barrel of a Mannlicker shotgun. And America’s beloved Mark Twain shows a disturbing fascination for his “aquarium” of Angelfish, the unsuspecting young female fans who promise to love him—until they reach his imposed cutoff date of age sixteen, often with painful consequences.

Wild Nights! is not for the timid reader and shouldn’t be read straight through. Each story is a powerful trip through time and varied places so vivid the reader may think “Yes, it could have happened that way.”