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Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet, #2)
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Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet, #2)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,544 ratings  ·  144 reviews
Oates's third novel, originally published in 1968, is the riveting story of a child murderer told by the killer himself. Nominated for a 1968 National Book Award, Expensive People is a stunning combination of social satire and gothic horror.

Joyce Carol Oates' Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of you
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 10th 2006 by Modern Library (first published 1968)
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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,544 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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May 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-18
Le persone responsabili dei disastri sono sempre quelle che desiderano, ma non sanno cosa e men che mai come ottenerlo

Credo di sapere che cosa farò con gli ultimi due capitoli dell'epopea americana, ne leggerò solo le postfazioni. Sono state scritte dall'autrice in occasione delle ristampe, e sono più interessanti dei libri stessi (almeno le prime due).
Se vi dicessero di un romanzo in cui il narratore ventenne colloquia con i lettori raccontando le gesta di sé decenne, sareste interessati? Se ag
Cody | codysbookshelf
Hmph. This was a disappointment. The opening line — “I was a child murderer” — effectively hooks the reader and the first few chapters are well written, but the story quickly spirals out of control. This is a “memoir”, as told by a mentally ill eighteen-year-old, which is a concept I love . . . unfortunately, said character makes Holden Caulfield look sympathetic.

Expensive People is a cutting satire of ‘60s suburban life, and it is a meta look at the writing process. Some passages herein are suc
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Completamente differente lo stile della Oates nel secondo capitolo dell'Epopea americana, ambientato negli anni 60, gli anni della costruzione e dell'ostentazione del benessere economico, e focalizzato sui tre personaggi che costituiscono una tipica famiglia wasp americana: bianchi, ricchi e pseudointellettuali
Ma il narratore qui è un ragazzo che si definisce, fin da subito, un "bambino assassino" e che ripercorre nel racconto la parabola distruttiva e autodistruttiva del suo rapporto nevrotico
Laura J. W.
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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 is a haunting book. I really like JCO's early work more than ...more
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-readings
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.
Anfri Bogart
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oates
Il mondo dei ricchi visto con gli occhi di un bambino problematico. Con genitori molto assenti e troppo preoccupati di apparire in società, Richard sviluppa un morboso attaccamento alla madre, che finirà per smarrirlo completamente e farà di lui un infelice. Nonostante il tema possa sembrare particolarmente drammatico e cupo, il registro narrativo di J.C.Oates è brillante e ironico, la scelta di usare un bambino troppo maturo per la sua età per descrivere questa coppia squinternata è perfetta. C ...more
Dan Thorson
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Pam Baddeley
I have only read a novella of this author's previously but have been intrigued enough to acquire a few novels which appeared in charity shops - this is the first I've tried. I found it interesting but rather distancing and disengaging - probably intentional as it is told by the archetypal unreliable narrator.

Richard is an obese 18 year old embarking on a memoir about his earlier life and in particular the events that occurred when he was around 11 years old and a skinny asthmatic child. He tells
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Andrew Fairweather
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, yank-lit
'9. I observe much parallelism of paragraphing and sentence structure as I dare, (Note that each of these remarks begins with "I." or did you already notice it, you clever son-of-a-bitch?'

This is the first novel by Joyce Carol Oates that I've read, and I had no idea where to begin (after all, she's written over 40 novels... a little intimidating for the Oates novice), so I just yanked 'Expensive People' off of our shelves at the Seward Park Library. I'm glad I did!

Obviously, I can't speak compar
May 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was such a surprise after my disappointment over them.

There are similarities for sure, as they are part of the same series. But what disappointed me about them was mostly missing in this book: The character and narrative were consistent and made me care; there was a minimum of the "I don't know what's going on and I'm wandering around in a mist" first-person narrative (well, it was still there in this book, with the protagonist feeling as if he were "asleep" or "waiting" for most of his lif
Sunny Shore
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Nada Faris
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
John Devlin
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
(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
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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.
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jul 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 08, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-picks
'9. I observe much parallelism of paragraphing and sentence structure as I dare, (Note that each of these remarks begins with "I." or did you already notice it, you clever son-of-a-bitch?'

This is the first novel by Joyce Carol Oates that I've read, and I had no idea where to begin (after all, she's written over 40 novels... a little intimidating for the Oates novice), so I just yanked 'Expensive People' off of our shelves at the Seward Park Library. I'm glad I did!

Obviously, I can't speak compar
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For thirty years, I have tried and failed to get through a Joyce Carol Oates novel, the impetus of my good intentions consistently derailed by the avalanche of seemingly unedited self-indulgent inward mythos that might make interesting fodder for a therapy journal but which creates the fictional equivalent of Mr. Creosote from "The Meaning of Life"--an overstuffed behemoth whose eruption and eventual explosion requires self-protective measures from unhappy bystanders.

And then there's "Expensive
Francesca Maccani
In questo angolo di paradiso che è il mio giardino in Trentino ho finalmente finito di leggere I Ricchi della Oates.
Così a caldo non ho ancora capito se mi è piaciuto o no.
La scrittura è pazzesca ma il romanzo è profondamente diverso per soggetto, linguaggio e tono rispetto a Il giardino delle delizie.
Considerato che si tratta di un romanzo scritto nel '68 lo trovo molto attuale, specie per la portata di violenza autodistruttiva, disperazione e crisi dei valori.
Ho faticato un po' a leggerlo a
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
More like a 3.75/3.8 rating, to be frank. I enjoy Oates' more disturbing novels, so with that expectation in mind this fell a bit short. This is probably my own problem because I was expecting more horror rather than literary fiction. However, it was still a good novel. I found some of the chapters were should have been throw aways because they were pretty boring or useless to further the plot (I understand that the book was written this way because the narrator is supposed to be inexperienced a ...more
Viktor Zharov
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was interesting to discover this Joyce Carol Oates's early written book. I enjoyed it, her attention to details and dark humor are incomparable, as usual. My favorite character was Natashya, or Nada, as her teenage child calls her, a young woman from a small town in upstate NY. She's trying to accomplish many things: to become a successful writer, to raise her social status in local upscale suburban communities, and to reach some other, more obscure personal goals. It's a controversial charac ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-read
I think Oates is often brilliant and some of her earlier works are among her finest. This book is the second in her Wonderland Quartet, published in 1968. This one explores affluent characters and their suburban, mid-century lifestyle. Specifically, it examines a family - mother, father, son. It is a first-person narrative written from the perspective of the son, now an 18-year old, writing a “memoir”, his story of events at age 8 and age 11. It is chaotic, violent, disturbing, confusing. It fee ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Initially I thought Richard had a classic Oedipus Complex. But his thoughts about his mother are often too denigrating to completely support the theory. More clearly, neglect in the form of physical abandonment and emotional disregard lead to his psychological deterioration, and eventually an attempt to free his mind of his pathological maternal fixation and his depression. This was an interesting, thoughtful story. Not surprisingly, Joyce C. O. has an interest in psychology, and her deft skills ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
I did not finish the book. I have it 2 stars for being able to muscle through 59% of the book. I have always loved Oates but this one just didn’t do it for me. Clearly the book was written emphasize blandness of suburbia, businessmen, dysfunctional families. The characters were caricatures of this. But I could not get into the style of writing. I hated all the characters and found the messaging somewhat condescending.
Joyce Peak
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is about a boy growing up without love, attention, affection, or time allotted to make life better for him. He loved his parents but doubted their love for him. This doubt was not unreasonable. His mom was high society, or tried to be. She was out of the house more than in it.
She left the family 3 times in the 18 years the main character grew up. The son cherished her anyway.

There was a murder in this book. Have I told you too much?
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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
“Was it confusing because it was artistic, or artistic because it was confusing?” 20 likes
“Literature, art, like civilization itself, are only accidents.” 6 likes
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