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Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet #2)

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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,033 ratings  ·  91 reviews
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 obe ...more
ebook, 318 pages
Published April 22nd 2009 by Modern Library (first published 1968)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,121)
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Dan Thorson
Seven years following the death of his mother, 18-year-old Richard Everett bluntly tells his audience that he was a child murderer. A severely obese recluse, Richard never fit in with the images of grandeur put forth by his father, a boastful professor and mother, a beautiful and mysterious writer. Further isolated at his pretentious private school, Richard becomes deeply troubled. His psychosis reaches dangerous heights when his beloved mother proves deceptive and vain, obsessed with maintainin ...more
Inaniel
Hmpf. I don't know. It started great, went very well for some while. I started liking the characters, the scene and the plot. Then suddenly came two or three intermezzi (chapters with totally different plot and style...why?) and after this I somehow got lost and couldn't connect with the characters anymore. Hm, nope, sorry.
Sunny Shore
After thinking about it, I decided to change this book from a 4 to a 5. It was a really powerful story written in the '60's about disillusioned wealthy youth which could've been written today. It's a little scary to think that not much has changed, but like Catcher in the Rye, the movie The Graduate and other artistic endeavors with this theme...one realizes the cycle just keeps on rolling no matter what the century is. The story of a very rich boy from a dysfunctional family (although this is d ...more
Alison
I think this was the first Oates novel that I've read and haven't liked all that much -- mainly because of the narrator. I'm not a huge fan of things written from the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator, and so that was one of the problems. Another thing that bothered me was the narrator's constant references to the fact that he was writing the account -- even going to far as to frequently talk about how poorly written it was, and how many digressions there were, and how the last three chapters ...more
Nada Faris
The prose was fluid. The protagonist unique, fleshed out, deranged, and engaging. The "plot" wanders though, sometimes in a seemingly aimless manner, but always culminating with an attention grabbing cliff hanger, a one line conclusion to the chapter that snaps the reader back to the story at hand: how the eleven year old child murdered killed his 'parent'.

I read the first 80% of the ebook on the treadmill (which is something I reserve for young adult novels and not serious works that I intend t
...more
Laura
"Expensive People" (the second book in the "Wonderland Quartet") is a dark social comedy with well-off suburbia as a stage and a cast of unlikeable, larger than life characters who make an appearance of being regular folks, but they are monsters of their making. When the story ends, I found myself wondering if this kid hallucinated the whole ordeal as the unstable mind of this particular young man is fertile ground for such things...it is a haunting book. I really like JCO's early work more than ...more
April
As the second of Oates' four-part, loosely-connected series on American life, Expensive People is her "romance with novel-writing itself." Part meta-fiction, part satire of 1960's Suburban culture, this memoir of a child murderer (not to be confused with a child-murderer) explores solipsism, the meaning of freedom, women's roles/responsibilities -both bodily and societal-, and obsession through the eyes, and typewriter, of a minor character of the world in which he lived.

"'When there is no longe
...more
Bridget
I finished [Expensive People:] this morning, and I enjoyed it. I love Joyce Carol Oates which is probably biased by the fact that I grew up in Buffalo, NY. But I really enjoy her writing style.

[Expensive People:] is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tale about Suburbia. The story is told from the perspective of a son whose father climbed the corporate ladder (moving his family from suburb to suburb every 18 months). The mother seemed to be a woman who was trying to avoid being the cliche housewife and
...more
Nicka
From promising beginnings, it ... drags on. This novel may have been more significant and ground-breaking when it first came out. We know how suffocating suburbia is by now, countless other books and movies have taught us this. The portraits painted are exquisite but leave me unaffected: no one is particularly compelling. We pity the narrator but we don't like him. The narrative style entertains in the beginning but like the narrator himself suggests, yes, the digressions do annoy
Cathryn Conroy
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 room eating wads of horrible food as he writes a memoir about being a murderer at age 11. This is the second book in the "Wonderland" quartet in which Oates examines various pieces and parts of American society. "Expensive People" profiles one affluent (and highly troubled) 1960s family. In this case, Oates writes this ...more
Anna
Author was definitely reading a lot of Nabokov when she wrote this. A peculiarly devastating portrayal of the invisibility of children in this time and social milieu. I think a lot of reviewers of the novel missed a subtle but crucial point about the narrator's key action--the reliability of his confession unravels.
Amy P.
Such a morbid tale, yet so well written! The characters are engaging, even if the plot is disturbing. However, I still found that I could not put this book down. Definitely not a book for those we get depressed easily. For those who like a well written story, this is your book!
Dev
(2.5) Oates is a maestro of the short form but I've never been galvanized by the few novels of her I've read. Expensive People continues this run. Marked by a gravity of insight but also a self awareness that mars the immersion into the novel. Of course, alot could be said of how meta this work is: the real short story by Oates credited to one of the characters and the memoirist style that purports to be non-fiction. Oates' attack on American commercialism might have been fresh in the late 60's ...more
Erin
If I could, I'd give this book 2 and a half stars. JCO makes some really interesting social commentary about the middle class and its children that still rings true today, but the narrator's incredible solipsism makes it difficult to read. The narrator/protagonist addresses the reader quite often, pulling you out of the story. The act of reading mirrors the satirical point JCO attempts - that the indifference you feel towards the narrator and the boredom you experience during the tale reflect th ...more
Stacy
Liked it better the first time, 15+ years ago. This time I would give it three stars, but I am going to keep it at four, since I once loved it.
Dina Marie Gangale
Good but not great...some very good dark humor...It was great look at the 1960's suburban life...left you wanting to know more.
Meagan Houle
This is a chilling criticism of American culture. First published in 1968 or so, it remains shockingly relevant even now. Richard, a "child murderer", is so unhappy with his position as a "minor character" in his mother's life, that he eventually discovers "freedom", and through that freedom, his sickly, quiet, inoffensive child-self disintegrates. He is then caught between hating himself, and glorying in the freedom of choice he experienced--for it is when he is killing that he is most alive. T ...more
George
Δεύτερο βιβλίο της Όουτς που διαβάζω, μετά το Ζόμπι, δεν μπορώ να πω ότι με ξετρέλανε όσο το προηγούμενο, αντίθετα μπορώ να πω ότι σε κάποια σημεία με κούρασε και λίγο παρά το μικρό του μέγεθος.

Αφηγητής και "συγγραφέας" της ιστορίας είναι ο έφηβος Ρίτσαρντ "Ντίκι" Έβερετ, που αφηγείται την ιστορία του τότε που ήταν δέκα-έντεκα χρονών το 1960 και πως έφτασε στο σημείο να γίνει δολοφόνος. Μέσω της ιστορίας η Όουτς δείχνει τον κόσμο των προαστίων και των σχετικά πλούσιων οικογενειών και των σχέσεω
...more
AmberBug *shelfnotes.com*
I must really love tragic tales about messed up people. I wonder if this reflects on me at all? This book is one of Oates earlier works and is part of the Wonderland Quartet. The quartet is a group of individual novels with an underlying common theme. These books explore social class by delving deep into a character growing up in America. Sounds like many books you've heard of? Well this is done by Oates and with each book my awe of her writing and stories grows. She understands that humans are ...more
Casey
Gorgeous, tragic--you know, my kind of book. It was my first Joyce Carol Oates book, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a faux memoir narrated by an 18-year old obese boy who committed a horrible crime when he was a depressed 11 year old. Loses some steam in the middle and then picks back up again when the main character begins his descent into madness. Interesting POV because a lot of the anguish of the main character centers on his mother, but we don't know her very well. We are not privy to her ...more
Lee Ellen
I picked up this ancient yellowed paperback in a used book store because I felt that, as a modern American who loves literature, I really ought to read more Joyce Carol Oates. I have read several of her short stories and decided that her place in the pantheon of great writers is not misguided. Where to begin with her novels, however, seemed a daunting task. Do I start with the first and work my way through time? Do I start by reading all of her gothic/horror books? Should I alternate these with ...more
Rachel
I loved "The Falls" by Joyce Carol Oates and expected great things from this well reviewed book.Its commentary on upper-middle-class suburban life was intriguing through the eyes of a verbally ironic, manic young narrator who professes to be a "child murderer". It is well written and delves into the conveluted inner conscience of a writer, as the narrator is always breaking down the traditional narrator/reader barrier to commiserate with his audience. Oates also achieves what she sets out to do, ...more
Molly
It is with great relief that I return to the Wonderland Quartet. After choking down book one of the Twilight "Saga" (um. please. Stephanie Meyer is no Egil.) hoping for a fling with a new series of books, I was left feeling bored, angry, and mostly sad. It's depressing that these books are so popular. There is an entire generation of young girls who are learning relationship cues from the most dysfunctional, self-absorbed, co-dependent star-crossed lovers in literature since Romeo and Juliet. An ...more
Sally Whitehead
Nothing has ever quite lived up to "Mulvaneys" for me when it comes to Joyce Carol Oates, and since that was one of the first of hers I read, her earlier work perhaps haven't made quite the impression they might otherwise have.

This is a great book in many ways, and it captures the suburban ennui of the 60s American middle class perfectly. It's just a little too self conscious for my tastes. The narrator is fabulously unreliable and intriguingly contradictory in his aloofness and whimpering insec
...more
Vicki
Did Oates ever write the fourth story in this quartet? I was amazed to discover that this book had been written in her very early days as a writer. It is ambitious as a fictional memoir. I enjoyed the pokes at rich, white people ... especially that every rich neighborhood is the same, right down to your friends that reappear even if you move!
Nikki Frankel
I love JCO. There is just something about the way she writes that pleases a part of me that no other writer has ever touched. Expensive People is a peculiar story, but JCO makes it seem almost normal and perfectly plausible that this is a real story being told by a young man recounting his childhood. I'd say most JCO fans would appreciate this book, but it might be a little too dry for those not familiar with her work. There's a lot of telling instead of showing and the frame story of this being ...more
Diane
When I take the early bus to work I sometimes wander the used book store for 15 minutes or so. I started reading this book one day and got hooked right away - "I was a child murderer." is the first sentence! Kinda just got strung along by the rest of the book - I was enjoying it, so I didn't put it down, and it flowed really well....but not really that "I love this book and it is so suspenseful I just can't put it down!" feeling.

Semi-interesting commentary on American suburbia in the late 1960s
...more
Guy
I may have been too distracted by events in my own life to give this a fair read, but I think it's worth mentioning that the way this book is written requires the reader's full attention. Various chapters seemed like impossibly long parenthetical statements to me, so the overall effect was of a very chatty person. Maybe "chatty" is how insane is being conveyed and I just didn't get it, but it was irritating to spend so much time with a character who did not seem to be able to maintain a coherent ...more
Seawood
I can't say I "enjoyed" this, as such - it's not an easy read, that's for sure, and desperately sad (in an angry, rather than tear-jerking way). I can respect and appreciate the writing, which powerfully displays the stuffy claustrophobia of mid-century suburban America.
Claire
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Wonderland Quartet (4 books)
  • A Garden of Earthly Delights (Wonderland Quartet, #1)
  • them (Wonderland Quartet, #3)
  • Wonderland (Wonderland Quartet, #4)
We Were the Mulvaneys The Falls The Gravedigger's Daughter Blonde Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

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