them (Wonderland Quartet (Paperback))
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them (Wonderland Quartet (Wonderland Quartet #3)

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,772 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Joyce Carol Oates�s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. As powerful and relevant today as it on its initial publication, them chronicles the tumultuous lives of a family living on the edge of ruin in the Detroit slums, from the 1930s to the 1967 race riots. Praised by The Nation...more
Mass Market Paperback, 478 pages
Published December 12th 1984 by Fawcett (first published 1969)
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Tom
As a stranger in the World According to Joyce Carol Oates, I established one essential fact in reading them: The woman is indeed a superb writer. From page one, this novel (published when Oates was 31), pulls you in with its confident rhythms, sharp dialogue, and natural storytelling ease. It's the sordid and surreal chronicle of a "white trash" family in Detroit, spanning the years 1937 to 1967. Loretta Wendall is the family's crude, optimistic matriarch; her children Maureen and Jules struggle...more
Paul
Around page 260, I stopped wanting to find out what happened to this miserable crew. I didn't mind if they all ended up going to Woodstock and scoring bad acid and drowning in one of those photogenic mudbaths. In fact - yay, way to go. It had been something of a struggle to bother about these people to begin with.
The novel is based on the life of the Maureen character.
Maureen was a real person. JCO met her round about 1962, she was a student in JCO's evening class at the University of Detroit....more
emily
Sep 20, 2009 emily rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: who? huh? was I saying something?
I honestly don't get it.

This is a book in which every character, all the time, is confused. At first, I thought maybe Ms Oates was not quite so sympathetic an observer as she thinks she is and that she may just think that her poor characters are poor because they're dumb. But no! The non-poor characters are just as befuddled. I have no idea how they get through their days. These people are constantly surrounded by a world that mystifies them, and they seem unable to remember things like where th...more
Northpapers
Joyce Carol Oates is the Tom Waits of highbrow pulp fiction.

My friend Jonathan Kotulski made the above statement, mostly in jest I think, during a recent phone conversation.

We had been talking about Kafka, Musil, Borges, and David Foster Wallace, then I mentioned that I was still feverishly reading novels and short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, and that I didn't completely understand why. The Tom Waits comparison came from the fact that she has produced a huge catalog, and managed to stay consis...more
Ron Grunberg
What can you say about JCO? The most prolific great novelist of our times. She's written probably over a hundred books, all illustrating her depth and wisdom as a writer. She's taken modern icons and major headlines, from the life of Marilyn Monroe and Ted Kennedy to the race riots of the sixties, but mainly she's gone behind the scenes of peoples' private lives, to illustrate through literally hundreds of short stories and dozens of novels her breadth and scope of knowledge and attention to the...more
Nic
It was a relief to reach the end of this based-in-fact novel of Detroit poverty and violence. Them spans two generations of a family who longs for better things, but can't make a more peaceful, healthy, affluent life happen. Oates starts with Loretta as an optimistic teen stuck caring for her alcoholic father and older brother, working at a dry cleaners. She really breaks your heart by getting you to feel her young character's yearning for a better life, then showing how they get sucked into pro...more
Julie
"As soon as she read the first page of a novel... she was pleased, startled, excited to know that this was real, the world of this novel."

"She could draw near to a man and through half-closed eyes assess him, never really looking at him; it was a feeling in her blood."

"There were certain cycles to go through. The cycle had begun when he had opened the door of his car for her, and in a minute or two it would end with his sudden paralyzed tension, his broken breath against her face, the familiar u...more
Jean
This is the 3rd novel in the quartet of the Wonderland Series, and not having read the other books, I was unsure as to whether I would be able to pick this up and "catch on". Never fear...Joyce carol Oates does it right. You can read this book and not have ever even heard of the others and still enjoy it on its own! She takes you back to the 5o's in Detroit and lets you see and feel how it was to be poor and struggling in those days. It's about race, class, family, love, urban life, marriage, wo...more
Megan Blood
I made it about 200 pages into this sucker (it's a big book). Her writing is beautiful, which is why I was determined to keep reading. But then I was forced to put the book down for an entire (crazy) weekend, and by Monday I realized that I just didn't care. I had no emotional attachment to any of the characters (who are all incredibly dysfunctional). I just can't see what would possibly be in the next hundreds of pages except more pointless dysfunction and strangely stoic sexual encounters. Not...more
Stephanie
I was in Detroit soon after the riots when I read this book. It was one of my all time favorites although I was depressed for months after reading it. Man's inhumanity to man (I think). I highly recommend it. The writing is superb! Wonderful!
Ann Duddy
I thought it only fair that since I have read a gazillion books in my life time, it would make sense to finally get around to reading Joyce Carol Oates, who has written a gazillion books. So I thought I would start with "Them", which won the National Book Award in the early 70s. (Not to be confused with the movie about giant killer ants of the same name.) Plus, I found this at a local used book store for a dollar and I just couldn't pass up that cover!

Well, let's just say that a)the National Boo...more
Al
This overly long book was alternately boring, fascinating, repelling and maddening. Ms. Oates follows the lives of a family -- mother, daughter and son -- living in poverty in urban Detroit in the fifties and sixties. Based, according to her, on actual events, the book chronicles the traumatic lives they led, with what, to me at least, is an excess of imaginative reconstruction of nearly every thought these individuals must have had while the events were transpiring. Or maybe I should say MIGHT...more
Katy
Dec 16, 2009 Katy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: only the most determined of readers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alison
I'm not really sure what I thought of this book - I didn't quite like it, but it was better than just OK (I'd prefer to give it 2.5 stars). Part of this is probably because I read most of it while I was a little out of it over the weekend, due to my poor (nonexistent?) ability to deal with the humidity & heat down here. I probably owe it a re-read someday.

Anyway, this is the third book in Oates' Wonderland series. This one follows members of the Wendall family -- mom Loretta, daughter Mauree...more
Faye
This s a 3rd of a quartet of novels written by Joyce Carol Oates in the 1960s and are based on issues of racism and poverty in Detroit, Michigan. I have been reading the Modern Library versions of the first 3 novels. The main theme and key question are does being poor necessitate becoming vicious and violent to survive? After reading the book I think an affirmative answer is the only one possible. Joyce Carol Oates lived in this region for many years, moving to Canada after the 1967 riots. The 1...more
Rachel
Joyce Carol Oates is an author I have come to love. I start to read one of her books and I cannot stop. I fall into her stories, her characters, her narrative. This book is no different. It is an epic tale of a family plagued by murder, death, spousal beatings, child abuse, prostitution and fire. Oh, and a riot. This is not even including the dashed hopes, lowered expectations, poverty and general sanity. The author gives us a lot of inner dialogue, and I wonder, does she think everyone is insan...more
Robert
I thought this book was great... at first. The further in I got, the less I could stand it. It just became more and more dull and predictable. Even the characters seem to grow weary of it, muddling through their adult lives in a total stupor. At about page 245 things took a turn for the worse. Yet somehow I managed to slog through it - until chapter 12. Who wants to read page after page of two boring, half-asleep characters going through mysterious '60s-style sex scenes? What's so interesting ab...more
Lynn
This is the book that made me fall in love with Joyce Carol Oates. This book follows the course of a family through the generations and was the book that helped me realize that I was doomed to a life like my mother's (and my grandmother's) unless I started paying attention! The cycle of life poorly lived is so clearly detailed. The characters are tragic and easily identified just by looking around you in any depressed area. They may even be in your own family. You don't read Joyce Carol Oates if...more
Ericka
Joyce Carol Oates is not for everyone! Mostly, she writes books about characters you would avoid in life, but can't turn away from when their lives are laid out on the pages. I thought Them really sunk it's teeth into what it means to be human. The characters are like so many people living in the world today. Oates is a great storyteller, even when you may not care for the story she is telling. I have really enjoyed the Wonderland series, even though Them is not my favorite book from it.
Jackson
Probably the best book I've ever read. The book is long (508 pages) and the story is thick. The lives of Loretta, Maureen, and Jules all take unexpected and somewhat expected turns throughout their trying lives. It can be depressing at times but there is always hope for redemption even though it's unclear what (if any) comes. You won't be disappointed with "Them" and I can't wait to read more of Oates books.
Debbie
Had to read this book for American Lit 2; I found it to be a really good read, but sooo very depressing. It seemed like a study of insanity for 30 years. Also, kind of irrelevant to my review of the book, but Joyce Carol Oates also just visited my school & it made for a very nice evening. She seemed overall a bit reticent, honestly, about doing the reading, but was very amusing and verbose.
Jane Anne
Again, my home state! Loved it. Did NOT care for device of having false intro stating that story based on true events! What is point of this? Loved how the housewives on the block griped about their lunk husbands and crabby, bossy, live-in mothers-in-law -- and all could identify w one another!
Sherry
A friend gave me this book when I took my first college position at a community College. It's a very insightful book about those we seek to educate.
Kathryn
I loved this book because it was set in my hometown of Detroit, and because it's a novel based on a real person.
Stephanie Ricker
Someone, somewhere, sometime ago recommended Them by Joyce Carol Oates to me. I have no idea who, so I don't know at whom to be miffed right now. I know Oates has won various literary awards and is supposed to be really good, but...ugh. I'm maybe 150 pages in, and so far it's sordid in a terribly dull way. It's not shocking or anything, it's just very blandly ugly. 500 pages of that may be more than I care to suffer through, but I'll at least give it a bit longer to get its act together.

Update:...more
Withanhauser
Oates’ them is a contextual book—that is, one indelibly wedded to its time and subject: mid-20th century, urban America, and poor white people. them was written in 1967 and 1968, and published in 1969, and much of the book’s content—specifically, its culmination—occurs during the 1960’s. In writing them, Oates is trying to create an epochal book while also relating the circumstances and lives of poor people, especially poor women, during that time.

What structures and shapes the lives of poor, wh...more
Paul Gleason
Maybe it's my recent reading of Zombie, but I just can't get behind Oates the way I once did. In fact, my reading of them - the novel for which JCO won a National Book Award - brought to the surface all the bad feelings about JCO that I've probably been harboring in my cranium ever since I started reading her.

Using an energetic and extremely passionate prose style that recalls Emily Brontë, Mailer, Kerouac, and even Lawrence, JCO's novels read like exuberant explosions of pure story. But the pro...more
Chris Gager
I just read JCO's little intro last night. I have to finish another book first so I'll probably start tomorrow. I wanted to read "What I Lived For" but haven't been able to find it at the local libraries so I'll read this relatively famous one. "We Were the Mulvaneys" was only so-so for me but I want to give the author another shot. My edition is a paperback with a murky B&W cover photo of a riot scene.
Day one... still barely into the book but I like the author's style. Abrupt... almost brut...more
Freddie Owens
Ms. Oates work is eminently readable - depicting episodes of violence, which seemed strange and heartless (at times thinly supported by the narrative that preceded them). There are also improbable liaisons, family histories founded on rape and abuse, even murder or attempted murder and tortured loves, all seemingly unredeemable and given momentum by an ignorance never fully examined by the author much less her characters. THEM won the National Book Award back in the early seventies. As depressin...more
Lola Wallace
Jun 21, 2008 Lola Wallace rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lola by: Kate K.
Shelves: 1960s-and-70s
them is like nothing I've ever read, really. Sometimes I feel like Oates is describing another planet. Maybe it's just another century.

As a reading experience, though, I'm tempted to compare it to The Corrections. Both are sprawling, absorbing realistic novels with a similar project: to explore the lives of ordinary people so deeply and precisely that the reader realizes there are no ordinary people. These characters are as alive as you and me, and as remarkable, tragic, surprising, brutal and...more
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure...more
More about Joyce Carol Oates...
We Were the Mulvaneys The Falls The Gravedigger's Daughter Blonde Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

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