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The Accursed Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Soon after arriving at Princeton University, where she continues to teach, Oates completed Bellefleur (1980), launching a series of sly gothic novels. One manuscript, The Crosswicks Horror, was left unfinished, and Oates has now resurrected it as a lush, arch, and blistering fusion of historical fact, supernatural mystery, and devilish social commentary. High-strung and ambitious Woodrow Wilson is the president of Princeton. Anxious over festering conflicts and appalled by what he learns about his distant relative and protégé after the nearby lynching of an African American man and his pregnant sister, Wilson seeks advice from retired Reverend Winslow Slade, who would rather think about the upcoming wedding of his granddaughter, Annabel. But this fair maiden is in danger of falling under the spell of a handsome stranger with otherworldly eyes. As an elite WASP enclave finds itself caught in the grip of inexplicable terror, readers will be bewitched by a fantastically dramatic, supremely imaginative plot rife with ghosts, vampires, demons, and human folly. Oates brings her nightshade humor and extraordinary fluency in eroticism and violence, American history and literature (her magnetizing characters include Mark Twain, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair) to this piercing novel of the devastating toll of repression and prejudice, sexism and class warfare. A diabolically enthralling and subversive literary mash-up. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Propelled by a lavish national tour and multimedia campaign, The Accursed is destined to be one of Oates’ most widely appealing and avidly read novels. --Donna Seaman


“Joyce Carol Oates has written what may be the world’s finest 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... Oates’s hypnotic prose has never been better displayed.” (Stephen King, New York Times Book Review (Cover Review))

“Spectacular. . . 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)

“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 (4 Stars))

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)

“[The Accursed] is in addition to being a thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship...The story sprawls, reaches, demands, tears, and shrieks in homage to the traditional gothic, yet with fresh, surprising twists and turns... Oates has given us a brilliantly crafted work .” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Carefully and densely plotted, chockablock with twists and turns and fleeting characters, her novel offers a satisfying modern rejoinder to the best of M.R. James—and perhaps even Henry James.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“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 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))

“A smart and relentlessly absorbing read.” (Library Journal)

“Joyce Carol Oates is at her gothic best… an astonishing fever dream of a novel.” (Los Angeles Times)

“For those who enjoy total immersion in this kind of historical fiction, The Accursed is good fun, as mesmerizing as a demon and as addictive as a patent cure.” (Boston Globe)

“A fascinating novel in which historical truth and imagination collide to create an unsettling vision of America as it entered the 20th century.” (Columbus Dispatch)

The Accursed blends history, horror, fantasy and black comedy into a trippy literary brew. For fans of Oates’ gothic works, this is a heady draught indeed.” (Dallas Morning News)

“Regular readers of Oates will be familiar with the game. . . after [new readers make] their way through The Accursed, no one will find it easy to forget.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Joyce Carol Oates is at the top of her game in her glorious new novel, THE ACCURSED - a long, lush account of perhaps-preternatural happenings in Princeton, N.J., a century ago.” (Buffalo News)

“This latest effort looks like a belated candidate for the Great Oates Novel . . . The Accursed is a big, mad, colourful romp, respectful of the literary traditions in which it participates, leavened with a piquant humour.” (Financial Times)

The Accursed is very much in the American gothic tradition of Charles Brockden Brown, Hawthorne, Poe, and Faulkner.” (New York Review of Books)

“In this new novel Oates has achieved a nearly flawless combination of postmodernism, gothic horror, “traditional” narrative, politically engaged literature, historical novel, and popular bestseller—a heady and enjoyable mix.” (Harvard Review Online)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 669 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062231707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062231703
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (245 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

This book grabbed me for the first 50 pages.
Michael Karp
I have always been a fan of Joyce carol Oates, but this was awful, had this been the first novel I ever read of hers it would have been the last.
Dawn Catalino
Way too long, characters not likeable, plot very muddy.
Blue Ridge Mountains

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

139 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Brown VINE VOICE on January 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates, so when I discovered she had a new book out, I was excited. I was even happier when I found that it was another volume in the gothic family saga series she started many years ago with `Bellefleur', which is one of my favorite books. The 660 page length didn't bother me; she's an author who, at her best, can fill that many pages with brilliance. I greeted the book like it was a big box of candy.

I'm afraid I was disappointed. There are a lot of good things in the book-an extended patrician family living in Princeton is cursed. Voices say bad things to people, ghosts are seen, a shape shifting demon walks among them and leads them into tragedies. At the same time, they have to deal with the demons of their everyday life: racism, misogyny, classism, the Machiavellian politics of Princeton University. I liked having a narrator who only knew the story through the diaries and papers he discovered long after the events took place. Half the population of the book are real people: Woodrow Wilson is president of Princeton U, Grover Cleveland and his wife are part of the social circle, Upton Sinclair has a large part devoted to him, Jack London, Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain all make appearances. But the lessons about society are a little heavy handed, and I'm really not sure that some of the historical characters added to the story. Upton Sinclair and Jack London didn't seem to be connected to the family and the curse but took up a lot of pages. The only way I could see that they added to the story was by showing the reader what the attitudes of people of the time were, but I know enough history that I didn't need that and I'm sure there are many other readers like me.

Oates has written a great story, but every story needs an editor. At least a hundred pages could have been cut without the story losing anything and the book would have been much sharper. I enjoyed the book, but got impatient with it frequently.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wow. Hard to do justice to this sprawling (667 pages) and shape-shifting saga. Two days after finishing "The Accursed" and I'm still thinking about this juggernaut of crime and punishment in the late Gilded Age. Actually, the theme of crime and punishment doesn't even get close to the elements of good and evil that author Joyce Carol Oates has woven together in this genre-bending novel that starts as historical fiction and quickly begins to shift toward science-fiction/horror, with a general "sins of the fathers" overhang. Along the path there is an in depth look at social history--including a chilling sub-story of northern lynchings, racial discrimination and casual abuse of Blacks and other non-WASP citizens that become a moral legacy that must be reckoned with as the book progresses. .

What could be called a rage against the patriarchy is also a central theme of "The Accursed", where great men of the time--Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Samuel Clemens and their male sidekicks and relatives are shown to be among the worst of misogynists of the period; dependent upon their female partners in all ways, but ungrateful, self-absorbed and completely insensitive in their relationships with their better halves.
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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Joyce Carol Oates is critically recognized as one of the greatest American writers of fiction. Her dark and brooding stories range from tense to terrifying, and are often characterized by strange symbolism, dreamy scenes and brutal violence, all overlaid with fantastically gripping storytelling. Her novels can be difficult, intellectually and emotionally challenging, but they are worth the time and energy invested.

Oates's latest, THE ACCURSED, is no exception. It takes place in one year in Princeton, New Jersey, but also reaches back in time 50 years or more and across metaphysical and magical space. The book is styled as the history of the "Curse" that afflicted the university town, a curse that arrives seemingly out of the blue and leaves the traumatized residents as abruptly as it came. The Curse begins as "the unspeakable," actions and thoughts not allowed in the polite and rigid society of Princeton. But over time, as the evil grows in power, it must be confronted and atoned.

Our narrator is the amateur historian M.W van Dyck II, a native to Princeton himself who is writing in 1984. Drawing on books and documents that have, in the past, attempted to understand the Curse (also known as the "Horror"), he is also in possession of some artifacts to which no one else has been previously privy and thus sets out to reconstruct and finally explain the frightening events of 1905-1906 wherein a series of hauntings, nightmares, fights, violence and even murders racked the town and its inhabitants. In over 650 pages, the story of the Curse unfurls, in a heady and sprawling collection of letters, diary entries, surreal experiences breathlessly dictated, and van Dyck's own research and narrative (occasionally footnoted).
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