What I Lived For by Joyce Carol Oates
Book Review: 3 out of 5 star rating
A day in the life of Jerome “Corky” Corcoran is quite a day indeed. It’s Memorial Day, 1992. Marilee Plummer, a black woman who had recently accused a black city council member of raping her, has apparently committed suicide. Corky doesn’t make any political friends when he calls for a full investigation. Nothing’s going right for Corky. He feels betrayed by his lover, his financial empire is in trouble and his troubled step-daughter is causing him grief. Corky has never gotten over his father’s cold-blooded murder and he may soon discover some answers.
Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors but I can’t say that this is one of my favorite novels of hers. It’s a very uncomfortable book to read and Corky is a very hard character to like. He’s a womanizer, he’s patronizing, he’s conceited although he also hates himself, he’s racist and he has a horribly foul mouth. I felt like I was being assaulted by the hard language used throughout this story. On Corky’s behalf, he’s a self-made millionaire and has come a long way from his difficult start. This book is over 600 pages (it’s a reprint, having first been published in 1994) and there were times I wasn’t sure I could spend any more time with this guy. I’ve always known that Ms. Oates is a brave author and I think this is probably one of her bravest efforts. But I’m not at all sure that Corky warranted such attention. I wish I could have come to care about Corky. The first chapter of this book is a heartrending one but it wasn’t enough for me to justify what Corky becomes as an adult.
This must be the first Joyce Carol Oates book that I didn’t love. Sorry, Ms. Oates. I do appreciate the opportunity to read this work of a well-loved author.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.