Oates on “Tabloid Hell”

Residents of the greater Washington, D.C. area are currently having their patience tested with a 12-part series about the death of Chandra Levy. Best as anybody can tell, the series is little more than a tick-tock of a scandal that happened seven years ago, one that sheds no new light on how to investigate a high-profile murder in general, or on how D.C. police in particular might better comport themselves in the future. It’s old and tiring stuff to a lot of people, which may be why nobody seems to be beating down the door to talk about Joyce Carol Oates‘ new novel about a JonBenet Ramsey manque, My Sister, My Love.

To be sure, the book has issues. (If critical characters like Skyler’s dad seem wooden and irrational, is that Oates brilliantly exposing the tics of the novel’s unreliable narrator, or is she just writing weak characters?) But Oates’ obsession with tabloid-news culture itself never seems misguided, and she discusses “tabloid hell” in an interview with BookPage, in which she reveals that Bill O’Reilly was good for something:

“I had the whole Fox News syndrome,” she says. “I was watching Fox News while I wrote the novel, watching Bill O’Reilly. I do come from a Christian background and the Christianity on Fox News is just used for political purposes, it’s so transparent. Bill O’Reilly always used to say ‘secular progressive’ for left wing. Secular progressive sounds pretty good to me! Fox News? I call it Hawk News. I don’t watch that anymore. I just can’t even look at it now.” She detoxed with “The Daily Show.” “He’s excellent,” she says. “I get a lot of news from Jon Stewart.”

One thought on “Oates on “Tabloid Hell”

  1. It’s really a disappointing book. I am a huge fan of Oates, and she did so well with Blonde and Black Water that I expected this to be great. And the first half has some really good moments and scenes, but the second half both falls apart and drags.

    (Although I must say that I did read Skyler’s father’s “wooden and irrational” nature as the product of an unreliable narrator. I had far more trouble with Oates’s treatment of Betsey. But maybe I’ve giving her too much credit.)

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