Last Days: Stories

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Last Days: Stories
AuthorJoyce Carol Oates
CountryUnited States
PublisherE. P. Dutton
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback)
Pagespp. 241

"Last Days: Stories" is a collection of short fiction by Joyce Carol Oates published by E. P. Dutton in 1984.[1] The stories in this volume were originally published individually in literary journals (See Stories section below)[2]

The works entitled “The Man Whom Women Adored” and “My Warzawa: 1980” were recipients of the O. Henry Award, and appeared in the 1982 and 1983 issues of Prize Stories, respectively.[3]

Last Days: Stories is Oates’s thirteen collection of short fiction.[4]


Journals and publishing dates on which the stories were first published are listed after titles.[5]

“The Witness” (Antaeus, Spring 1983)
“Last Days” (Michigan Quarterly Review, Summer 1983)
“Funland” (Limited edition by William Ewert, Concord, NH, July 1983)
“The Man Whom Woman Adored” (North American Review, March 1981)
“Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.” (Queen’s Quarterly, Autumn 1983)

“Ich Bin Ein Berliner” (Esquire, December 1982)
“Detente” (with accent) (The Southern Review, July, 1981) “My Warszawa: 1980” (The Kenyon Review, Fall 1981)
“Old Budapest” (The Kenyon Review, Fall 1983)
“Lamb of Abyssalia” (Pomegranate, 1979)
“Our Wall” (Partisan Review, Spring 1982)


Calling Oates “the poet laureate of schizophrenia, of blasted childhoods, of random acts of violence” novelist Erica Jong, writing in The New York Times, compares the author of Last Days favorably to literary figures Singer, Henry, Maupassant and Nabokov.[6]


The 11 stories in the collection are presented in two sections. The five stories that comprise “Last Days” dramatize the acute suffering that accompanies personal violence and end in madness or suicide in America.[7][8]

The six stories included under the “Our Wall” section deal with the Cold War social aspects of Eastern Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the oppressive and isolating intellectual environment suffered by intellectuals and artists in the last phase of Stalinist rule.[9] Despite stories “that reveal personal and political barriers to wholeness, health [and] integrity” literary critic Greg Johnson offers this caveat regarding the collection’s theme:

The title Last Days should not be read as fatalistic but as all of Oates’s fiction, Last Days dramatizes a nightmarish present but suggests a positive resolution, a necessary path to the future.”[10][11]


  1. Johnson, 1994 p. 218-221: Selected Bibliography, Primary Works
  2. Oates, 1984. Top of copyright page, opposite dedication page.
  3. Oates, 1984, copyright page.
  4. Johnson, 1987 p. 180
  5. Oates, 1984 Copyright page, opposite dedication.
  6. Jong, 1984
  7. Johnson, 1987 p. 180-181
  8. Johnson, 1994 p. 182: The first section “deals with a variety of troubled individuals who either die, or at best, find themselves living life-in-death experiences.”
  9. Johnson, 1994 p. 182: “...Last Days was written during the recrudescence of extreme Cold War tensions…the suffocating air of the Eastern Bloc nations..”
  10. Johnson, 1987 p. 199: Elliped material reads: “ the sense that a breaking down, even though involving the emotional violence and terror endured by so many of these characters, is a necessary prelude to their ‘communal consciousness.’”
  11. Johnson, 1994 p. 182

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