The tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel playsThe tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel plays with Gothic conventions masterfully. An attempt to patch together the story of those dark years, The Accursed is the manuscript of amateur historian (and descendant of a "Cursed" family) M.W. van Dyck II. He presents a series of excerpts from journals, letters, newspapers, even a coded diary, written during the time of the "Curse," in an attempt to piece together the strange and horrible events that appear to have begun with the abduction of the innocent and beautiful Annabel Slade from the church on her wedding day.
Between the covers you will find demon lovers, murderous jealousy, miscegenation, beckoning apparitions, even a fairy kingdom. Also, an absolutely enormous cast of characters, some entirely fictional, like the sorely afflicted Slade family; others "real," like Woodrow Wilson (at the time President of Princeton University); ex-U.S. President Grover Cleveland; and Socialist writer Upton Sinclair. What I did not expect to find was a darkly satirical commentary on Christian piety, ivory tower backstabbing, gaping class division, the rise of Socialism, and, of course, the "Gothic novel" itself.
The premise may sound wacky, but "The Arcanum" was much darker and more disturbing than I expected (a definite plus for me!). Wheeler's first novel isThe premise may sound wacky, but "The Arcanum" was much darker and more disturbing than I expected (a definite plus for me!). Wheeler's first novel is a thoroughly entertaining alternative history/steampunk/horror concoction, which would indeed make a great action film. It probably helps to know something about Biblical apocrypha, hermetic occult circles, voodoo and Lovecraftian horrors . . . but if even one of those is your bag, dig in for a rollicking read which also delivers several serious cases of the creeps....more