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The Accursed

by
July–August 2013, no. 353

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

Fourth Estate, $29.99 pb, 688 pp

The Accursed

by
July–August 2013, no. 353

If, hardy reader, you make it through the 667 pages of Joyce Carol Oates’s The Accursed, you will see, on page 669, that she prefaces her acknowledgments with this gnomic utterance: ‘The truths of Fiction reside in metaphor; but metaphor is here generated by History.’

I’m not sure that I get Oates’s gist exactly, and those striding allegorical capitals (Fiction, History) don’t help, but I guess we are to understand that, in this novel, not all will be as it seems. Meaning will lie in layered pastiche (Larry King has dubbed the novel ‘postmodern Gothic’); gritty social realism will consort with grisly Gothic fantasy; characters will die dreadfully – lynched, burnt, minced, beheaded – yet bounce back to life (some of them) with the relentless aplomb of bottom-weighted dolls. Oates will play fast and loose with genre, narrative voice, American history, and famous American folk (Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London among them). She will do so with the warrant her literary reputation affords her, and it will all add up to something profound.

Morag Fraser reviews 'The Accursed' by Joyce Carol Oates

The Accursed

by Joyce Carol Oates

Fourth Estate, $29.99 pb, 688 pp

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