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    One great short story to read today: Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

    Emily Temple

    May 23, 2024, 10:30am

    According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, for the second year in a row, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free* to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

    “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

    Joyce Carol Oates’s most beloved (and most anthologized) short story it seems simple, but even on multiple readings it’s hard to tell just how she’s hypnotizing you, even as Arnold Friend hypnotizes Connie: slowly, and then quickly. What even are we dealing with here? Is it a horror story about the devil? Is it a chilling, all-too realistic reminder of the fragility of the social fabric, its inability to keep us safe? Is it a coming of age story? Probably it is all of these and a few others besides. Regardless, read it with the lights on…

    The story begins:

    Her name was Connie. She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn’t much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it. “Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?” she would say. Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything. Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie.

    Read it here.

    *If you hit a paywall, we recommend trying with a different/private/incognito browser (but listen, you didn’t hear it from us).

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