domingo, 15 de dezembro de 2013

Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Accursed’ is complicated, compelling - By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Accursed’ is complicated, compelling
By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY


The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

March 13, 2013
The sheer number of novels written by Joyce Carol Oates — she has published nearly 40 — befuddles the minds of us mere mortals. As does the fact they just keep getting better.
Her latest, The Accursed, is a compellingly dark tale told in the classic and moody Gothic storytelling style she already proved herself so able to articulate in 1980's Bellefleur.
Oates actually began The Accursed in 1984. The manuscript, then called The Crosswicks Horror, sat unfinished until she decided to resurrect it nearly 30 years later.

This atmospheric tale, set in Princeton in the first decade of the 20th century, recounts a "plague" of evil, a curse that rains bad luck and abominable misfortune on the university town and its residents.
It's a story haunted by spirits, vampires and other ghoulish creatures, and Oates has spared no paper (actual or digital) — the book weighs in at nearly 700 pages — to bring this story to life.
A classic ghost story sits at the center of this novel, but it's also swathed in historical figures. Politicos including Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson come alive in Oates' deft hands, as do Mark Twain, Jack London and Upton Sinclair, venerated writers of the time.
But it's the curse and its victims that are always center stage. Strange things are happening in and near Princeton. A young black man and his sister are lynched. A white girl dies under mysterious circumstances, her body found in a canal. People begin seeing things and acting strangely. There are no better scenes of Gothic horror than those Oates weaves into this brilliant work.
The walking, talking manifestation of the curse raises its head first in the bosom of the Slade family. Lovely Annabel Slade's presumably ideal marriage to Lt. Bayard ends during the ceremony when she's inexplicably drawn from the church by the repulsive, shape-shifting Axson Mayte. They race by carriage from Princeton into a nightmare world of spirits, sexual abandon and depravity. Time passes, Annabel returns home. Witnesses claim she has given birth to "no human creature at all, but a black snake; with a blunt bullet head." That's just how dark and macabre this novel is.
Written as an amateur history of the curse by a member of one of Princeton's princely families, The Accursed practically trembles under the weight of M.W. van Dyck's footnotes, personal letters and sidebars on the curse and the cursed.
Oates' novel also is a dark, sometimes ugly, cultural history of Princeton and America in that time period. She lays out, in lavish detail, the oppression of women and gays, the suffocating strictures of being a proper Princeton family, the ugly reek of racism that permeated many a gentleman's and lady's view of the pecking order of their insulated world.
For all its magnificence, The Accursed demands much from its readers. It's dense, complicated and just a bit frustrating. That's because the story is so scarily good. We can't turn the pages fast enough.


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