‘White Rose’ and Other Stories

Black Dahlia & White Rose, a new short story collection by Joyce Carol Oates, will be published next month. The title story imagines an encounter between Elizabeth Short – the young woman murdered in Los Angeles in 1947, and known as The Black Dahlia – and a young Marilyn. It first appeared in a 2011 e-anthology, LA Noire, and you can read the story here. (My review is here.)

Oates, author of the Marilyn-inspired novel, Blonde, spoke to the New York Times about her latest publication.

“The title story in your new collection, Black Dahlia & White Rose, was first published in conjunction with a bloody video game, L.A. Noire, which was noted for its narrative sophistication. Did you get a chance to play it?

No, but it sounds very imaginative and interesting, like you’re in a waking dream. I just don’t have the apparatus to see it. But we were all — the creators of the video game and I — inspired by the idea of Los Angeles in a certain period of time.

The ‘Black Dahlia’ here refers to Elizabeth Short, an aspiring actress who was gruesomely murdered in Los Angeles in 1947.

Yes, and if you’re interested in hard-boiled mystery, the Black Dahlia is like the Virgin Mary.

She was mutilated, her body cut in half. In your story, you assume her voice from beyond the grave.

Well, I’m very interested in voices. I also had my novel Blonde about Norma Jeane Baker, who becomes Marilyn Monroe, narrated by the posthumous Norma Jeane Baker.

Marilyn is also in this story; you imagine her as the Black Dahlia’s roommate. There have already been eight new books about Monroe just this year. Why do you think she endures?

After having had a high-profile but not necessarily successful career and then a disastrous ending, she became what we might call ‘iconic’, a sort of awkward word that means that people relate to the icon without any historical sense or intellectual comprehension of what it means.”

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