Issue #217: The Woman in the Window

217-kindle_Page_01In our new issue, Joyce Carol Oates’s “The Woman at the Window,” two point of views are woven into a complex story of sex, violence, longing and connection. Contributing Editor Patrick Ryan took this unique piece through its paces, and so I am turning the introduction reins over to his steady and talented hands. I hope you’ll all read Joyce Carol Oates’s fascinating Q&A that tells how this piece began with a painting, and then became a poem, and is now a powerfully unnerving, voice-driven story that will grip you from the first page to the very last sentence.-HT

Paintings with people in them always suggest a narrative. Part of the fun of looking at, say, Vermeer’s “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” is wondering what the story is behind the image. Why does this pregnant woman reading the letter look so sad? Who is the letter from? Is it bad news? Maybe from the unborn child’s father? We can’t help but wonder about the context and start filling in the blanks. But it takes an imagination as colossal as Joyce Carol Oates’s to look at Edward Hopper’s painting, “Eleven A.M.” and create the story you’re about to read.

woman.in.windowIn the painting, a woman—naked but for a pair of high-heeled shoes—sits in a chair and stairs out through an open window. The woman seems to be waiting for something. The title of the painting tells us only the time of day. As Oates reveals in her interview with One Story, one of her starting points in writing about this woman is that she is forever trapped in her waiting; it is, forever, eleven a.m.

Waiting for what? Waiting for whom?

We’re honored to welcome Joyce Carol Oates into the One Story family, and we’re delighted to present to you “The Woman in the Window.”

4 thoughts on “Issue #217: The Woman in the Window

  1. I did not subscribe to One Story to read another piece by Joyce Carol Oates. Competently put together, this sad grim tale that has been told many times before, and in more interesting ways…Cheever’s masterful “The Five Forty-Eight” comes to mind. The humorless mix of exploitative sex and potential violence is not “unnerving” but unpleasant… woman as victim in these transactions, certainly true to life, especially in the days of Hopper, is still an old story and depressing.The deliberately ambiguous ending also seems like a dodge. I’m looking for more wisdom, hope, panache…perhaps something that might help me through the night…JCO is certainly a force of nature, but her viewpoint seems dated and sad. Also the painting prompt is not that interesting either… I don’t want a visual with a short story! That’s what I like about the presentation of the OS printed version. Even the The New Yorker has succumbed to the need for some kind of “eye catching” ad for its fiction…. Case Studies made the subscription worthwhile in any event and compensates for this unwelcome downer. I think that my submitted story, Heirlooms, which you rejected, is actually much more interesting than this one… I definitely cop to my feeling that I did better, even if I’m not JCO….. Sorry, I’m human.

  2. I, too, did not like “The Woman in the Window” at all and was surprised that it was chosen for publication by One Story. I prefer writers who use complete sentences. Like the previous commenter, I didn’t like the “exploitive sex and potential violence.” Go for hope, wisdom, twists of fate. Not murder. The story about the veteran in the library for instance. Now that was original and an excellent read. Or, the couple at the cabin on the lake. With all the submissions One Story receives, it seems odd to me that “The Woman in the Window” would be chosen. I found the story repetitive and contrived and boring. I hope that in the future One Story editors will go with emerging writers, rather than someone who is established in her career.

  3. I agree with the 2 postings above. OS only publishes 12 pieces per year, and to give a precious slot to JCO, for a mediocre story, seemed wasteful and not endearing me to continue subscribing.

  4. I disagree with the posts above. I enjoyed the story and was interested in how a writer would get inspiration from a painting and the drama unfolding between these two point of views kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading the story. Most important it was very unsettling and I appreciate that in a writer.

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