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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"The Accursed" by Joyce Carol Oates~Daunting & Damned Good!


A major historical novel from "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation)—an eerie, unforgettable story of possession, power, and loss in early-twentieth-century Princeton, a cultural crossroads of the powerful and the damned.

Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth century: a tranquil place to raise a family, a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at the edges of the town, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent. A powerful curse besets the elite families of Princeton; their daughters begin disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man–a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil, and who spreads his curse upon a richly deserving community of white Anglo-Saxon privilege. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.

When the bride's brother sets out against all odds to find her, his path will cross those of Princeton's most formidable people, from Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House and retired to town for a quieter life, to soon-to-be commander in chief Woodrow Wilson, president of the university and a complex individual obsessed to the point of madness with his need to retain power; from the young Socialist idealist Upton Sinclair to his charismatic comrade Jack London, and the most famous writer of the era, Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain–all plagued by "accursed" visions.

An utterly fresh work from Oates, The Accursed marks new territory for the masterful writer. Narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling supernatural elements to stunning effect.


Published by:  Ecco/Harper Collins
Pages:  667
Genre:  Fiction
Author:  Joyce Carol Oates

YouTube Video about "The Accursed:"

By now most of you know who Ms Oates is but here is a brief synopsis of her and her work...
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.


Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.
A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college -- a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate. Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor -- from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize -- and her fiction turns up with regularity on The New York Times annual list of Notable Books. On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades – familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence – she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."
Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.

Good To Know

When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.
Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s.
In 2001, Oprah Winfrey selected Oates's novel We Were the Mulvaneys for her Book Club


Daunting...nearly 700 pages of Joyce Carol Oates writing in her Gothic style.  One never knows what to expect.  I certainly wasn't ready for vampires in her hands, but she's capable of any and everything!
Ghosts and vampires creep through the pages of this book, but they travel it beside such well-recognized old gents as Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland and Upton Sinclair.  Princeton University never looked so hallowed, and the grounds so clearly delineated, either.  But, I'm Ms Oates faithful reader, so all was well in my book!  I read every page like it was chocolate.

Ms Oates has a way with satire/humor and it's run rampant in this novel.  She enjoys poking fun at the old standards of Princeton and the wealthy establishment of patriarchy that founded it.  She also glides through their phobias and insecurities like a hot knife through butter.  I loved it.

Women characters are also described in the finest details and are not left unscathed by her piercing eye. Early awakenings of feminism are heartening. I particularly love the diary entries. 

I relish a good villain in the hands of Joyce Carol Oates because the "good" are so beautiful and vulnerable and the villains are so slimy.  She seemed to have great fun with this book, and we sense it in all the hissing and lip-smacking that goes on.

While "The Accursed" is a large book, I highly recommend it.  It's legendary in terms of the history of Princeton and its venerable inhabitants, and the accompanying fictitious parts are like icing on the proverbial cake!  For instance, I'll never look at Woodrow Wilson in the same way again!  The Gothic elements are to die for.

This is a fantastic book by Ms Oates!  You'll be sorry if you don't read it.

5 stars                   Deborah/TheBookishDame



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