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Them (Modern Library) Paperback – September 12, 2006

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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 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 Wonderland Quartet, written in the "white heat" of youthful imagination and fervor, remains not only relevant but prophetic about the widening social and economic gulf in American society, the self-destructive violence of political extremism, and the terrifying hubris of science and technology. Bringing to life an unforgettable range of men and women, the Wonderland Quartet offers a compelling introduction to a protean and prodigious contemporary artist." -- Elaine Showalter, from her introduction, which appears in all four of these new Modern Library editions

Praise for them
"A superbly accomplished vision."-John Leonard, The New York Times

"That rarity in American fiction, a writer who seems to grow with each new book."-Time Magazine

"A superb storyteller. For sheer readability, Them is unsurpassed."-Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"When Miss Oates' potent, life-gripping imagination and her skill at narrative are conjoined, as they are pre-eminently in Them, she is a prodigious writer."-The Nation

Praise for Joyce Carol Oates
"If the phrase 'woman of letters' existed, she would be, foremost in this country, entitled to it."
John Updike, The New Yorker

“Oates writes prose of striking directness and simplicity. . . . She invests everything she touches with the qualities of her own voice, which is nervous, fast, febrile and hot as an iron. I’d unhesitatingly say that she is one of the most important living American writers.” –Peter Straub, New Statesman

“Oates’s novels work best when the action is set off by one terrible mistake. . . . These novels are hypnotically propulsive, written in the key of What the Hell is Going to Happen Next? Oates pairs big ideas with small details in an ideal fictional balancing act, but the nice thing is that you don’t really notice. You’re too busy rushing on to the next page.”
Claire Dederer, The New York Times

“Joyce Carol Oates is a superb writer with a perfect eye and ear. She has the uncanny ability to give us a cinemascopic vision of her America.”
Charles Shapiro, National Review

“Oates is unlike many women writers in her feeling for the pressure, mass, density of violent American experience not known to the professional middle class. . . . [Her] characters seem to move through a world wholly physical in its detail, yet they touch us and frighten us like disembodied souls calling to us from another world.”
Alfred Kazin, Harper’s

“To read Oates is to cross an emotional minefield, to be stunned to the soul by multiple explosions, but to emerge to safety again with the skull ringing with shocked revelation and clarity. . . . [Oates’s] lack of presumption, her superlative middle-American scope and focus (like a Dos Passos, a Zola or a Dostoevski), and her unerring dedication to curing the absence of empathy that pervades so much of our contemporary writing all combine to make her one of the top writers truly puzzling out the complexity of the American experience today.”
S. K. Oberbeck, – The Washington Post Book World

“Perhaps the most significant novelist to have emerged in the United States in the last decade
. . . Like the most important modern writers–Joyce, Proust, Mann–she has an absolute identification with her material: the spirit of a society at a crucial point in its history.”

From the Inside Flap

Winner of the National Book Award and in print for more than thirty years, them ranks as one of the most masterly portraits of postwar America ever written by a novelist. Including several new pages and text substantially revised and updated by the author, this Modern Library edition is the most current and accurate version available of Oates' seminal work.
A novel about class, race, and the horrific, glassy sparkle of urban life, them chronicles the lives of the Wendalls, a family on the steep edge of poverty in the windy, riotous Detroit slums. Loretta, beautiful and dreamy and full of regret by age sixteen, and her two children, Maureen and Jules, make up Oates' vision of the American fam-ily--broken, marginal, and romantically proud. The novel's title, pointedly uncapitalized, refers to those Americans who inhabit the outskirts of society--men and women, mothers and children--whose lives many authors in the 1960s had left unexamined. Alfred Kazin called her subject "the sheer rich chaos of American life." The Nation wrote, "When Miss Oates' potent, life-gripping imagination and her skill at narrative are conjoined, as they are preeminently in them, she is a prodigious writer."
In addition to the text revisions, this--new edition contains an Afterword by the author and a new Introduction by Greg Johnson, Oates' biographer and the author of two monographs on the work of Joyce Carol Oates.

"From the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345484401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345484406
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Them" has an intriguing and even risky premise: Joyce Carol Oates, who was teaching literature at the University of Detroit in the 1960s, receives some rambling, emotionally revelatory letters from a former student and fashions a novel out of this poor girl's life story. The girl was not a good student--Oates had flunked her, and it's easy to see why if her epistolary manner indicates the quality of her literary essays. But the passion and the pain in her letters cry out for a story to be told, one that is probably more interesting than any that could have been furnished by a better, happier pupil.

The girl is given the pseudonym of Maureen Wendall, and "Them" is the saga of her dysfunctional lower-class family from 1937 to about 1966. A laundry list of domestic turmoil--rape, murder, attempted murder, assault, accidental death--devastates the Wendalls as they migrate throughout the poor neighborhoods of Detroit, chasing solvency and dignity in vain. Her older brother Jules, a restless, rebellious spirit, can't stay away from bad influences or out of trouble, and her younger sister Betty is a mischievous tomboy whose delinquency seems to arise from familial neglect--they only take notice of her when she's doing something wrong, which of course is most of the time.

Maureen herself is bright enough and behaves well; she likes to read and makes the public library her sanctuary, where in the permanence of the words of Jane Austen novels she finds a comforting reality lacking in the instability of her home life. Her innocence is destined to falter, however; as a teenager, she begins meeting an older man and accepts money for having sex with him.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of Ms. Oates' earlier works set in Detroit.
It is a book of excellence as one generation is rolled into the other. A very true to life book where as the characters advance in reaching their destiny however small, they are always setbacks and stumbling blocks, not allowing them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, reminding us of the pathways we've walked before and are forever walking in. This was a very emotional book for me with great depth to the story line.

It is a long book and should be read with patience in order to get the gist of the Detroit the author penetrates in that century with it's poverty, racial and violent concerns. You won't forget Maureen Wendall who some will empathise with you see her desires and the things she yearns for with all her heart and soul.......and you won't forget her brother Jules either...intelligent and so very intricate you wonder what he is about to do next with that brain that never stops ticking. I cannot help saying what a brilliant writer I have found in Ms. Oates, and I encourage those who love her as much as I do to try THEM. I recommend it to all her favourite readers who haven't read this one as yet.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 02/03/02)
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was somewhat of a struggle for me, though I am a giant Joyce Carol Oates fan. I thought it wasn't possible, but "Them" is more of a brooding, dark, and realistic novel than Oates has pulled off anywhere else in her career. Here is a lot of characters that are in constant danger of falling to pieces, of escaping one another, of realizing their limits as individuals and as a family unit. If you are not a reader who can take a kick in the stomach, don't read this book. However, if you are willing to realize there is a hard edge to life which goes unrecognized each day, pick this book up as soon as you can - Oates creates a world fatalism and human conditions that are at once terrifying, yet beautiful: it is hard to look away. I was held breathless and scared until the last word dropped like a boulder.
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Format: Hardcover
Joyce Carol Oates is a novelist of the first order. Her novel of postwar Detroit (really of postwar America), Them, is her best. Nothing she has written, before or since (even including her newest, the fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe) brings the reader the emotional power, or the superb prose of Oates' immortal classic. Readers who read Them when it was first published years ago deserve to study the new Modern Library edition. Readers unfamiliar with the best of Oates should run, not walk, to their bookstores or their personal computers and order this classic. It is as simple as that. Them is a masterpiece.
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By A Customer on March 5, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Them is a great book. Don't get my wrong. I enjoyed it very much and was fascinated by even the characters that didn't arouse much sympathy. But it also took me by surprise. As a fan of Joyce Carol Oates, this book was not what I expected. It's very down-to-earth without many of the gothic elements that can be found in her other novels, short stories, and plays. But that doesn't mean it isn't very dark in places as well. The story starts out in the early part of this century with Loretta - a teenage girl living in the inner city with her carousing brother and alcoholic, widower father. She is concerned mostly with having fun and meeting boys until her brother committs a murder that will change her life and the lives of her future family dramatically. The bulk of the story is centered around Loretta's son, Jules, who struggles with his family and the harsh environment of the city. The pace got a little slow in the middle, but it was appropriate for the lives of the characters. Real life doens't happen at a whirlwind pace for many, and one of the striking things about Them is how Oates captures the mundane nature of daily living even as life-changing events occur around the characters. So if you want to read Joyce Carol Oates save this book for another day and pick up Zombie or Foxfire instead. But come back to it
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