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Expensive People (Modern Library Paperbacks) [Kindle Edition]

Joyce Carol Oates
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In Expensive People, Oates takes a provocative and suspenseful look at the roiling secrets of America’s affluent suburbs. Set in the late 1960s, this first-person confession is narrated by Richard Everett, a precocious and obese boy who sees himself as a minor character in the alarming drama unfolding around him.

Fascinated by yet alienated from his attractive, self-absorbed parents and the privileged world they inhabit, Richard incisively analyzes his own mismanaged childhood, his pretentious private schooling, his “successful-executive” father, and his elusive mother. In an act of defiance and desperation, eleven-year-old Richard strikes out in a way that presages the violence of ever-younger Americans in the turbulent decades to come.

A National Book Award finalist, Expensive People is a stunning combination of social satire and gothic horror. “You cannot put this novel away after you have opened it,” said The Detroit News. “This is that kind of book–hypnotic, fascinating, and electrifying.”

Expensive People is the second novel in the Wonderland Quartet. The books that complete this acclaimed series, A Garden of Earthly Delights, them, and Wonderland, are also available from the Modern Library.

Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Wonderland Quartet, four early novels by Joyce Carol Oates

A Garden of Earthly Delights
Expensive People

"Protean and prodigious are surely the words that describe Ms. Oates. From the very beginning, as these impressive and diverse novels make clear, her talents and interests and strengths have never found comfort in fashionable restraint. She's sought, instead, to do it all -- to face and brilliantly, inventively transact and give shape to as much of experience as possible, as if by no other means is a useful and persuasive gesture of moral imagination even conceivable. For us readers these are valuable books." --Richard Ford

"These four novels reveal Oates' powers of observation and invention, her meticulous social documentation joined to her genius for forging unforgettable myths. She is one of the handful of great American novelists of the last hundred years. " --Edmund White

"This rich, kaleidoscopic suite of novels displays the young Joyce Carol Oates exercising her formidable artistic powers to portray a turbulent twentieth-century America. They offer the reader a singular opportunity to experience some of Oates's best writing and to witness her development, novel by novel, into one of our finest contemporary writers." --Greg Johnson, author of Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates

"As a young writer, Joyce Carol Oates published four remarkable novels, A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), Expensive People (1968), them (1969), and Wonderland (1971). They were all nominated for the National Book Award, and Oates won the award for them in 1970....Reprinting the series in modern paperback editions nearly forty years after their composition allows us a new perspective on their collective meaning and illuminates their place in Oates's overall career...The Wonde...

About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. The bestselling author of the novels We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde, she has written numerous works of fiction as well as poetry, essays, criticism, and plays.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1565 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (April 22, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0026LTNCM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,206 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but engaging early work by the prolific Oates September 3, 2001
By A Customer
Joyce Carol Oates must be one of the most prolific contemporary novelists of our time. Her taste for torrid themes, in particular the brutal and bizarre, are well known. "Expensive People", one of her early works, starts off with a bang. A more direct opening you'll not find. The scene is set. You're instantly captivated and as she reels you in, you succumb and immediately find yourself in Richard Everett's head as he unveils his life story to you...bit by bit. You know you're dealing with dysfunctionality as soon as you meet his parents. There's a seething madness underneath just waiting to get out. If the medium were film, you'll see them cast in grainy black and white. But it isn't. Sad to say, the book loses momentum midway and it becomes tedious. You keep waiting for something to happen and when it does, it's anticlimactic. In the words of Richard, life isn't fiction. Nor is it half as dramatic. Oates is a colourful and engaging writer. She's got craft but has a tendency to indulge herself and when she does, she loses focus. "Expensive People" isn't a conventional thriller. It's a social critique of American society at the turn of the 60s decade and about the falseness of respectable society on the brink of a social revolution that will forever shatter time tested norms. While flawed and not entirely satisfying, it's an impressive early work and Oates got much better by the time she wrote Black Water.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A highly enjoyable book September 29, 1998
By A Customer
JCO takes us deep into the mind of a child killer -- that is a killer who just happens to be a chid. It's a disturbing affair, with the style random and jumbled to give a bit of consistency to this troubled mind.
As an early adult recovering from a near similiar fate as the central character, Richard Elwood, I find it an accurate portrait of the descent into childhood madnesses. It is also a realistic picture of middle America in the 1960s.
JCO writing is superb and she really pulls you into the minds of her characters through Elwood's slow narrative.
A great book
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars surrealism of suburbia April 10, 2000
Joyce Carol Oates writes a Nostradamus-like prediction in "Expensive People". She delves deeply and sympathetically into the mind of a maddened child, and what events and conditions have played upon this child to reduce him to his psychotic state.
Her description of suburbia are chillingly real, in the surrealism that they potray about our middle-America life and the saftey net of support that is purported. In the wake of the events at Columbine high school in Littleton, CO, "Expensive People" is a must read for all of our society to better understand ourselves, and our disenchanted teenagers.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
JCO, one of this country's most prolific writers, has written a book that takes what we read in the newspapers and see on the news, into the depths of the mind of how a possible child killer may think, and why he/she would act out the violent aggression that seems to plague so many of our young people today. The brutality of pretension and lies that make people go on a downward spiral to their doom is very well explained in this novel. Upon reading it, we, the readers, come to realize that we are either the fake ones or the desperate ones. Is there a possibility to overcome either side? If not, can we overcome the circumstances of our actions? Maybe. Maybe not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Tragic A Hard Read July 31, 2007
I am reading a lot of Joyce Carol Oates books, as I love her style, and the way she takes you into her stories. At present I am reading her set of four books written in the 60s as part of the Wonderland Quartet, her first book A Garden of Earthly Delights is magnificent and superb story. Expensive People is a trying read. The highlights of this book are the way Oates describes people with money, and how little they give back to society...a commentary which still fits the high income level suburbs in Northern California as well, the plasticity of the individuals living in these areas, with their big houses, small yards, little interest but in jogging, going to teas, country clubs, etc...She is talking not about people with old monies, but the nouveau riche, and she does this very well. Oates uses a young overweight 18 year old as her primary narrator and character, he is the neglected fixated with his mother, and his oedipal alliance creates lots of trauma for him and in the end causes tragedy and loss...In a sense the book has great images, it is written exceptionally well...might be that I did not read it fast enough, it surely was not a page turner for me, like other of her novels...I would recommemd it with reservation... it is an interesting book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough for me to rate January 6, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I've never been one to follow the pack and I've never liked being railroaded into reading specific authors or works. This is the reason it took such a long while before I read my first work by Joyce Carol Oates. An English professor spent an entire semester trying to convince me that I should read Oates' work, so I resisted to the point that Expensive People was gifted to me and then sat on my bookshelf collecting dust for a year before I finally cracked the spine. From page one I was hooked. Although this is not the best piece I've ever read by JCO, it WAS the biggest surprise to me, hence the five star rating. Had I opened this book expecting to be thrilled by the story and the quality of Ms. Oates' writing, my rating would be a bit lower. However, this piece forced me to seek out other works by a woman who quickly became one of my favorite authors. Although I'll admit I was wrong to avoid reading her work, I'll refrain from admitting that my college professor was right...I still believe that you can't force anyone to love what you love just because you love it.

That said, read this book, don't read this book...It makes no difference to me. ;o)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ... down but in the end I thought it was brilliant.
It really took awhile to get into this book and several times I almost put it down but in the end I thought it was brilliant.
Published 1 month ago by Irma J. Morris
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
beautifully written but totally unsatisfying
Published 4 months ago by Lee Ojascastro
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! Disturbed and Violent, But Brilliant
Joyce Carol Oates wrote this book, which was published in 1968, in the first person--as a 250-pound, 18-year-old highly disturbed boy/man-genius, who is holed up in a cheap rented... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Cathryn Conroy
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice read for betting the winter blues
This was a typical Joyce Carol Oates book with well established characters and great plot line. A nice simple read
Published 22 months ago by Amy A Grant
3.0 out of 5 stars Super weird and Freudian
Expensive People is written by a female author but is the memoir of an adult male character. Despite frequent assertions in the text that this is a real memoir-it isn't. Read more
Published on February 3, 2012 by Natalie E. Ramm
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, disturbing, well written
This was my first book of JCO's, and I'm tempted to read another. I liked her writing style although it is different and more disjointed that nice, neat and literary writing. Read more
Published on March 17, 2010 by tignor
4.0 out of 5 stars Oates Ahead of Her Time
Joyce Carol Oates writes so much that a reader of my generation can hardly catch up with what she's written in the past, much less with what she continues to produce, unless they... Read more
Published on October 27, 2009 by David A. Moyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Tortured
I adore JCO enough to read a book like this that wanders about and somewhere just past the middle is it's own book. Read more
Published on May 27, 2008 by Jessica Gottlieb
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the finest American novels
Darkly funny, richly allusive, Oates' satire of the upper middle class is a wonderful read. Many Nabokovian resonances.
Published on June 11, 2004
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More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates 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.

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