Books: On the Rack

THE WHEEL OF LOVE AND OTHER STORIES by Joyce Carol Oates. 440 pages. Vanguard. $6.95.

Oates people are among the most painful characters in contemporary American fiction. Some are dullards entranced by chilling fogs of unsorted emotions who stumble into disaster and violence. Some are lovers whose needs are more alive than their satisfactions. Precocious youths and intelligent adults are driven to madness and suicide by the cruel clarity of their perceptions. There are also the survivors who have learned to stay afloat by discarding their vitality.

Often, Joyce Carol Oates' creations suggest 19th century romantic novels: a Tolstoy heroine tuned to the...

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