Monday, October 14, 2013

Oates Brings Back Old-School Gothic with 'The Accursed'




The Accursed
By Joyce Carol Oates
Ecco (March 5, 2013)
688 pages

The Accursed is a masterpiece, a writing tour de force. Joyce Carol Oates flexes her considerable literary might to create an old-school Gothic tale that is not for anyone looking for a “quick read.” It is far more in-depth and complicated for that.

Narrated by M.W. Van Dyck II, a local historian attempting to make sense of the alleged Crosswicks Curse that plagued Princeton, New Jersey, during fourteen months from 1905 to 1906. Through various journals, letters, and other such documents, we meet the townspeople, including historical figures Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, and Upton Sinclair.

This is not “Oates does Paranormal.” In the vein of nineteenth-century stories, the horror is implied rather than overt, and the demons and vampires much more sly. The true fright is how the curse manifests itself in the townspeople, as well as who and what are ultimately responsible. Here, Oates takes the microcosm of Princeton and broadens the scope to the national level through Sinclair’s luncheon with Theodore Roosevelt at the White House, then extends it even further to explain a plague on society for thousands of years.

No holes barred, the formidable Joyce Carol Oates unleashes a stream of prose to solidify her position as “the writing beast,” as I call her, unafraid, powerful, and a force in the bibliophilic universe.

The Accursed is so many things on so many levels, but the one thing that definitely shines through is Oates’ genius.




6 comments:

angel011 said...

Sounds intriguing. Would you call it better than Black Water or Zombie?

Kelly Hashway said...

How have I never heard of this? Thanks for sharing!

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Angel011: I haven't read either of those, so I can't compare. I've read The Falls, We Were the Mulvaneys, and several of her short stories. Sorry!

Kelly: You are very welcome. :)

Leah Griffith said...

I've not heard of her, but with your endorsement I can't help but want to read her work. It will have to wait a while as I have sooo many books waiting. Thank you Karen!

Jack Urquhart said...

A very fine review; a most deserving author. Given Oates's formidable body of work, I can't understand why she hasn't received the Nobel?

Was lucky enough to see JCO live in San Francisco years ago. I remember that she spoke at length, and with real expertise, on boxing, of all things. Very funny, too.

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

My pleasure, Leah. You will not be disappointed.

Jack, I can't understand it, either. She is quite amazing. I was able to see her several years ago, and I was surprised, too, that she has a great sense of humor.