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Them (Wonderland Quartet) Mass Market Paperback – December 12, 1984
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"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."
"A superb storyteller. For sheer readability, Them is unsurpassed."
"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."
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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
I first heard of Joyce Carol Oates in the early 1970s,, while at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. At that time, Oates was an English Professor at the University of Windsor, Ontario. Students were raving about her writing, and about THEM, in particular. So I bought it and read it to see what the excitement was all about. I have been reading Joyce Carol Oates ever since.
Let me say that one has to have strong nerves to tackle her novels. In one, "The Falls" she begins with a suicide and it goes down hill from there. There are few redemptions - or odd redemptions in the ones there are - from this Gothic style novelist. She has been likened to Edgar Allen Poe in her scenarios of decay and doom and gloom. But Oates does it so well and her stories are firmly rooted in a hard-edged reality that it is worth the reading experience - if you prefer social reality to fantasy in novels.
THEM is the best. It is set in Detroit for about 20 years up to the race riots in the late 60s. It is the story of a white family struggling against poverty and their efforts to get free of it. There is no miracle and many times, when they thought they were succeeding they would be shot down again - sometimes, literally.
The book presents no miracles for success. It does show great effort in trying to live their day-to-day lives and, at the same time, try desperately, in their own ways, to overcome their harsh reality. At the end of the book, they are still striving. Do they succeed? Who knows? Oates doesn't present solutions. It is the trying that matters and what shapes a life.
I have learned why this book stayed in my mind all those years. I was absolutely right to let it haunt me. Years later, I uderstand its depths better and am even more appreciative of it.
This is her best book in my opinion. It did leave me with a feeling of deep sadness for the people who struggle so hard to win "The American Dream" and never seem quite to make it, after being slapped down by one thing or another, time after time.
I thought, "My God, why can't things be better for them?" I can't answer that question. It's too complex. But as a professor of mine once said, "There are no answers: only good questions."
Joyce Carol Oates was born in Lockport, NY and her books are often set in the upper Great Lakes Region. I Know the area well since I was born in Canada just a few miles across the border from Buffalo, NY. It is somehow comforting to be in NJ and be able to read books set in the region you've known well since childhood. For me, this adds a depth to my reading.
If you don't know the area, this would be a good time to read this book and learn some history of Detroit in its tumultous years.
And it's always a good time to read Joyce Carol Oates.