Friday, September 21, 2012


“The way you make your life, the love you put into it—that’s God.”
--Black Water (page 73)

The Chappaquiddick incident/scandal has always fascinated me, I think in part because of the nature of the the accident - a girl drowned in the car below and the question remains could she have been saved(?) - and because Chappaquiddick – one need only to say the word – represents another Kennedy scandal.  The Chappaquiddick incident is interesting as well because it has woven itself into the cloth of American identity – kind of like O.J. Simpson - and there’s an argument to be made that Teddy Kennedy would never become President because of Chappaquiddick.

(Picture of the Chappaquiddick accident scene)

Joyce Carol Oates (JCO) is an author I always thought I should read one day.

(Photograph of Joyce Carol Oate by Murdo Macleod for the Guardian)
Rather conveniently, in 1992 JCO wrote a novella called Black Water: The Senator, The Girl, The Accident which is, by extension, the Chappaquiddick story.  I say by extension because the story doesn’t take place in 1969 – when the Chappaquiddick incident occurred – but many years later.
I don’t know when I bought the book, but it’s been in my library for years.  I notice I tried reading Black Water once before, but quit for some reason: I got up to Chapter 8, page 20.

I finished the novella on September 21, 2012.  At 154 pages, it was just enough.  The story is pretty much the crash and as Kelly Kellecher (the fictional Mary Joe Kopechnee) slowly drowns, waiting for The Senator (who could only be Teddy Kennedy) to save her, the reader is given a glimpse of Kellecher’s life (her childhood, her time at Brown, that morning, day, evening, etc), which becomes a symbol for gender, class and race to an extent—to put it simply.

Kellecher, it’s said, is also only of average beauty, compared to her friend at least, and is self-conscious, but who isn’t--this, I think, is important to the overall meaning of the story.  It should also be noted that the two – The Senator and The Girl – were on their way, rather excitedly (eagerly even), to have sex when The Accident occurred.
(Late 15th Century Painting of "LUST" by
Jheronimus Bosch called: Table of Mortal Sins)


I enjoyed reading JCO (and Black Water: The Senator, The Girl, The Accident) that I think I’ll read Blonde: a Novel, JCO’s Marilyn Munroe story.

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