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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  2,215 ratings  ·  226 reviews
A young woman tumbles into a nightmare of decadent desire and corrupted innocence in a superb novella of suspense from National Book Award–winner Joyce Carol Oates. Art and arson, the poetry of D. H. Lawrence and pulp pornography, hero-worship and sexual debasement, totems and taboos mix and mutate into a startling, suspenseful tale of how a sunny New England college campu ...more
Paperback, Trade paperback, 138 pages
Published January 6th 2003 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published December 19th 2001)
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We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol OatesBlonde by Joyce Carol OatesThe Falls by Joyce Carol Oatesthem by Joyce Carol OatesMy Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates
Best of Joyce Carol Oates
7th out of 104 books — 44 voters
Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëDracula by Bram StokerWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëFrankenstein by Mary ShelleyRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Best Gothic Books Of All Time
158th out of 366 books — 1,888 voters

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Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
Last night I went here

to meet a friend, and after a couple of bevvies we went here

and had a good meal - I had a weird rubbery starter followed by

PLA SAM ROD ( Boneless crispy fish cooked in exotic tamarind sauce) - most excellent. I recommend this restaurant.

The reason I took Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates with me is because it is a very tiny itty little book and fitted into my inside jacket pocket - the Very Short Introduction series are also good for this -

and the reason I needed a book with me
Robert Beveridge
Joyce Carol Oates, Beasts (Carroll and Graf, 2002)

Joyce Carol Oates cannot be human.

It is simply impossible for a single human being to turn out the work she has over the course of her career, consistently stratospheric in both quality and quantity. Her thirty-year bibliography is so vast that the major internet repository of Oates research and criticism doesn't have a full list anywhere, but is now a searchable database. Another admittedly incomplete bibliography on the web lists eighty-nine bo
I read Beasts in about two hours on a hot day and felt like it could have been a dream, or a hallucination. A short, hazy, spellbinding story, it quite breathlessly races through a short period of time in the life of its young protagonist, Gillian, an undergraduate at Catamount College, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1975. Gillian is in love with her professor, Andre Harrow, and fascinated by his sculptress wife, Dorcas. She is obsessed with becoming part of the Harrows' lives and, jealously fo ...more
"Mi piaci, putrida, deliziosa marcescenza"

Avessi uno scaffale dell’Unheimliche (e a questo punto credo che dovrò crearlo) questo della Oates andrebbe subito dopo Der Sandmann di Hoffmann e Racconti: Primo amore, ultimi riti - Fra le lenzuola di McEwan.
L’intento della Oates è quello di creare un romanzo cupo, morboso, ossessivo. Per farlo si immerge nelle moors della Brontë trasformandole in un bosco di pini in autunno nel New England, facendosi ispirare al massimo da tutto il macabro che c’è
"...logic has nothing to do with truth, only with premises."

Apparently, the WORLD did not end today.
Then again, it's still early to assume.
Anyways, whether the world will end today or not, I've read Beasts in no rush at all. The pages simply flew on their own accord. Quick and haunting!

"In love at a distance, so much of life has to be invented.
In love at a distance, you learn the strategies of indirection."
In finishing the novella, I remain wholly unenthusiastic about its premise and conclusion. The characters were adequately developed: Gillian, Andre, and Dorcas made the [un?] holy trinity of main characters. The peripheral, secondary characters seemed heavy handed: Sybil? Marisa? ...They seemed written in as part of another story line that was never quite developed or integrated.

It's incidental to me that while the book takes place at a women's college, ostensibly among close friends, each actio
Sarah Beaudoin
I found Beasts to be a disturbing combination of traditional Gothic horror and Clive Barker at his most vulgar. While Oates does not approach the graphic nature of Barker's writing, the innocence of her setting (a small, liberal arts college) and her protagonist (Gillian, a young, student at the college) makes the vulgarity all the more unsettling. The story itself moves rapidly and draws the reader into a shadowy world of deception, drugs, and sexual deviance, while simultaneously maintaining t ...more
Wow...just wow!!

This little book packs a punch. It is so beautifully written I could have quoted the whole book.

Highly recommend!

Thank you Danielle for the rec. and the loan.
Alexandra Le Trionnaire
The fascination that philosophy / poetry / literature professors exert on their students has given birth to countless books, out of which I can clearly recollect two, The Dying Animal by Roth and Disgrace by Coetzee. Both worth re-reading (a compared analysis would be worthwhile)

Unlike her male colleagues, Oates takes the narrative point of view of the young woman, and this is no small choice. The young silent Gillian alias Philomela, falls deeply in abnegation-love with her poetry professor - a
Me ha interesado en momentos fugaces seguidos siempre de una decepción mil veces mayor que el interés. Banal, sin sustancia, tedioso, incluso infantil. Propio de adolescentes alteradas. Ni siquiera el aspecto formal se salva. No hay ni una mísera frase que se pueda destacar o considerar de alta calidad. Si todos sus libros son así no entiendo su estatus de “eterna candidata al Nobel”. Mientras leía tenía la sensación de estar escuchando a una de esas personas que se creen sus propias mentiras, q ...more
Great short novel investigates young female sexuality in the 1970's as exploited by the older and supposedly "Wiser" and more experienced. The setting is academia, but the gothic sensibilities, the attraction of the young for the more experienced, and the exploitation by those more experienced, is universal. D.H. Lawrence meets primitivistic sculpture as totems of life in the contemporary world. Interesting.
Joyce Carol Oates first ticked me off years ago when I was leafing through the 'Oxford Book of American Short Stories', which she edited. In her introduction to the flawless Flannery O'Connor story 'A Late Encounter With The Enemy', Oates calls O'Connor a "limited writer". Why the needless jab? It doesn't even make sense. Is O'Connor a limited writer because she didn't churn out limitless pages just for the sake of publishing as many books as possible? Because she didn't write in a variety of ge ...more
I learned about this book when I had to write copy for the Spanish-language edition for work. It seemed sexy and intriguing, and as I'm on yet another break from The Sound and the Fury, I thought I'd pick it up from the library.

The novel--or novella, perhaps, because it's only 138 pages--is about Gillian, a 1970s college student who falls desperately in love with Andre Harrow, one of her professors, as well as with Harrow's wife Dorcas, a sculptor of primitive and scandalous "totems"--statues of
Mindy Conde
In a way this kept reminding me of "Lolita" - obviously there is the element of forbidden attraction tying them for me, but there was also the element of just plain creepiness. No matter what I read, Humbert Humbert remains one of the most disturbing characters I've ever read...until Andre and Dorcas Harrow in this piece. I think that Andre and Dorcas are particularly disturbing because, where Humbert Humbert mainly fantasizes about his nymphete, the Harrows enact their disturbing fantasies on m ...more
Bessie James
I'm a huge Joyce Carol Oates fan, so there is some inherent prejudice in my view of this book. I see that by other reviews here, it's one of those love it/hate it books. I'm always puzzled by why a book elicits such diverse reactions.

With "Beasts", I think a lot has to do with the atmosphere of the novel -- an Eastern liberal arts college for women. I have no idea if it depicts this world accurately, having only attended college in a somewhat backward Montana town. This is key. If you can't imag
Though a little dated in style and theme ( a dorm room full of girls in a small Eastern mountain college around 1979) it is still Joyce Carol Oates at her quivering, dark best. Deliciously evil and erotic fun and creepiness. A short read for a dark and stormy night.
Bark's Book Nonsense
I've enjoyed the few books I've read by Joyce Carol Oates. She always has some nicely dark edges to her stories and never bloats them with useless prose and description. When I first saw this one while nosing around here on someone's goodreads bookshelf the cover intrigued me and I knew I had to check it out.

Set in the 1970's this short book is about a young college student named Gillian who has a painful crush on one of her professor's who makes it a habit, it seems, to seduce his young charge
Erm. The jacket made this sound a bit more like a gothic horror romance than it was. Totally false advertising. Instead, I got a tedious period piece about spoiled college students in love with their wretched abuser of a professor and his sculptress wife. I found it tedious. And more a vehicle for Ms. Oates to show her own academic prowess than a suitable vehicle for storytelling. The crux of the book only takes about 30 of the book's 138 pages; everything else merely builds up to the plot. The ...more
Avid Reader
This is the first book I've read written by Joyce Carol Oates though I have heard much about her as an author. After finishing this book, my inner reading conscience tells me that Beasts was not a good place to start.

The jacket art, The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli fascinates me and set high expectations that I feel were never met by the author. I may be a bit jaded in what shocks me but this story struck me as more Long Island Lolita than the "cunning fusion of Gothic romance and psychological hor
Dévoré en 2 jours, certes il est court mais captivant !

J'ai remarqué avoir un faible pour les histoires malsaines et là j'étais comblée : au fur et à mesure du récit de Gillian, j'étais de plus en plus mal à l'aise. L'auteur fait décrire à sa héroïne des situations de plus en plus borderline mais sans jamais poser de jugement ou d'accusations, elle raconte juste ce qui est arrivé sans le remettre en question. On est partagé entre l'envie de la secouer "Mais enfin réveille toi, tu vois bien ce qu
This novella surrounds a young girl at an all female college, and her (as well as other girl's) obsession with their highly sexualized poetry professor.

The book is told from the perspective of the main girl; in retrospect she is able to subdly highlight for the reader what a manipulative, abusive, pontificating asshole the professor is, while also submersing the reader in how he was viewed by the girls at the time- as well as exploring the dark side of her psyche and teasing us with a mystery.

Jim Leckband
Very well done, streamlined Gothic campus novel. The unreliable narrator is purportedly an innocent waif laid astray by an "evil" couple. But things might not be as clear-cut as the narrator says, since we only have her narration to go on.

(view spoiler)
Oct 26, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those with a love of deep literature
This book is much like the narrator: thin, delicate and complex. It follows Gillian, a student at an all-girls private college and her obsession with her professor that ultimately threatens her soul. Oates uses amazing characterization with each of the main characters of the book, though the likelihood of all of the members also being inhabitants of the same small dorm is a stretch. Here are a few of the different levels in this book: that of humans as animals (beasts) and that of their ability ...more
Jacqueline King
"Don't be fearful: excavate your soul. Go deeper! You can't go deeper? Go deeper. Go for the jugular."

My favourite Oates.

A delicious little gothic novella about a young girl, Gillian's, decent into debauchery with her poetry teacher and, later, his artist wife who creates wonderful grotesque statues. The writing is lyrical and emotional, flowing beautifully over a rather intense plot. Slowly Gillian's drug induced sexual obsessions intensify into a blazing crescendo. Usually I loathe a period pi
Devarsi Ghosh
I can safely say that this is the worst book I've ever read. It's so silly and stupid, and to think of the 'advance praises' on the cover...I can't put my irritation into words. I had heard good things about JCO but this was one hell of a disappointment.

'Deliciously Gothic'? Give me a break.
'Suspenseful and satisfying to the end'? Such a trite and tiring plot, man.
'Slightly bizarre characters'? More like badly sketched caricatures.
I hope to come across something a whole lot better by JCO cons
Nate D
Joyce Carol Oates has written an incredible number of novels and stories, several a year for her entire five decades of productivity, I think, which makes me (perhaps unfairly) somewhat skeptical. However, so far everything I've read from her, a handful of stories and two novels, has proven worthwhile.

This one is a creepy, focused depiction of collegiate cult of personality and immolation. Gothic tints, no unneccessary gestures, altogether enjoyable. Perhaps a little thin on characterization, bu
4 stars

“This is not a confession,” says Gillian Brauer at the beginning of Beasts, Joyce Carol Oates’s short and sinister novella. “I have nothing to confess.”

Of course, that’s not true. Gillian—a student at an elite, East Coast, all-girls college—has much to confess. First and foremost, her unhealthy obsession with her poetry professor, the domineering Dr. Andre Harrow, an obsession she then transfers to his sculptress wife Dorcas. But the Harrows, in turn, have some very unhealthy interests o
"But I thought that was what poetry is, Mr. Harrow: circumspect. If it wasn't it would be just talk."

I thought I would enjoy this, and for the first few chapters I found the familiarity of it encouraging. Consider the premise: a young woman at a Bennington-like college, her literary aspirations, the lecherous married professor into whose circle she drifts, the peculiar roommates, her sense of alienation, and the suggestion of something darker lurking at the edges. Because I've had the good fortu
Branwen *Blaidd Drwg*
A gorgeous, lush, provocative story that really illustrates bond between professor/student and how corrupted it can become. I'm not a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates, but I really enjoyed this book. The characters and writing style were so distinct and memorable. Additionally, I attribute my love of the poet D.H. Lawrence to this book!
I have read other works of Oates, which are better. However, this disturbing little story is extremely well-written and packs a mighty wallop in a very short novella. Makes you kind of wonder if she collaborated with Stephen King on this (it's that kind of book)!
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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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