Accursed (Oates) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Some novels are almost impossible to review, either because they're deeply ambiguous or because they contain big surprises the reviewer doesn't wish to give away. In the case of The Accursed, both strictures apply. What I wish I could say is simply this: "Joyce Carol Oates has written what may be the world's first postmodern Gothic novel: E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime set in Dracula's castle. It's dense, challenging, problematic, horrifying, funny, prolix and full of crazy people. You should read it. I wish I could tell you more.... The book is too long, but what classic Gothic isn’t? It sprawls, there’s no identifiable protagonist or unity of scene, and yet these many loosely wrapped Tales of Princeton are feverishly entertaining. Oates’s hypnotic prose has never been better displayed than it is in the book’s final fabulism.... I could tell you who wins...but it’s a secret.
Stephen King - New York Times Book Review


The Accursed is…spectacular—a coalescence of history, horror and social satire that whirls around for almost 700 mesmerizing pages…The delights of this macabre novel gather thick as ghouls at midnight in the cemetery. I've never been so aware of Oates's weird comedy…With its vast scope, its mingling of comic and tragic tones, its omnivorous gorging on American literature, and especially its complex reflection on the major themes of our history, The Accursed is the kind of outrageous masterpiece only Joyce Carol Oates could create.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


The Accursed is a unique, vast multilayered narrative; a genre bending beast of a book, utterly startling from start to finish, compulsive and engaging, the writing crackling with energy and wit. This is an elaborately conceived work.
New York Review of Books


Oates’ atmospheric prose beautifully captures the flavor of gothic fiction.... In Oates’ hands, this supernatural tale becomes a meditation on the perils of parochial thinking. It demands we think—with monsters—about our failure to face the darkest truths about ourselves and the choices we’ve made.
NPR


(A 4-star review.) A brilliant Gothic mystery that has the punch of historical fiction. Currents of race, class and academic intrigue swirl under the surface, but it’s the demonic curse that propels the action... Oates casts a powerful spell. You’ll close The Accursed and want to start it all over again.
People


(Starred review. ) [A] thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship. Distilled, the plot is about a 14-month curse manifesting in Princeton, N.J., from 1905 to 1906, affecting the town's elite, including the prominent Slades of Crosswicks and Woodrow Wilson, the president of Princeton University. After Annabel Slade is strangely drawn out of the church during her wedding, an escalating series of violence and madness based in secrets and hypocrisy is unleashed in the community. This story has vampires, demons, angels, murder, lynching, beatings, rape, sex, parallel worlds.... The story sprawls, reaches, demands, tears, and shrieks in homage to the traditional gothic, yet with fresh, surprising twists and turns.
Publishers Weekly


Historical fiction with a spooky Oatesian twist: at the turn of the 20th century, strange things start happening in peaceful, polished Princeton, NJ. Folks dream about vampires, the daughters of the town's classiest families start vanishing, and a bride-to-be runs away with a vaguely menacing European, presumably a prince and possibly the Devil. As her brother gives chase, he encounters characters from former President Grover Cleveland and future President Woodrow Wilson to authors like Upton Sinclair, all cursed with dark visions. Do these visions hint at personal or collective anguish?
Library Journal


A lush, arch, and blistering fusion of historical fact, supernatural mystery, and devilish social commentary... A diabolically enthralling and subversive literary mash-up.
Booklist


(Starred review.) Oates finishes up a big novel begun years before—and it's a keeper. If the devil were to come for a visit...where would he turn up first?.... Princeton, N.J., long Oates' domicile, ...on "the disastrous morning of Annabel Slade's wedding." No slashing ensues, no pea-green vomiting; instead, the good citizens of Princeton steadily turn inward and against each other, the veneer of civilization swiftly flaking off on the edge of the wilderness within us.... It just could be that the devil's civilization is superior to that of America.... The Curse is the one of past crimes meeting the future, perhaps; it is as much psychological as real, though Oates takes pains to invest plenty of reality in it. Carefully and densely plotted...it requires some work and has a wintry feel to it, it's oddly entertaining, as a good supernatural yarn should be.
Kirkus Reviews




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