Monday, April 8, 2013

The Accursed-Joyce Carol Oates

The Accursed

Joyce Carol Oates

Ecco, Mar 5 2013, $27.99

ISBN: 9780062231703

The Curse went public in June 1905 at the wedding of Annabel Slade when she walked outside the church in a trance during her vows and left with an enigmatic East European royal. Instead, the Curse surfaced in serene Princeton in March after the racial murders in Camden the night before. Upset seminarian Yaeger Ruggles explained what happened in Camden that the papers fail to report to his older cousin Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson. Taken aback with Ruggles’ reaction to the KKK lynching of two non-white siblings (even with one being pregnant), Wilson visits his predecessor at Princeton Annabel’s father Pastor Dr. Winslow Slade. The semi-retired Winslow tells the distraught Wilson to relax but beware of his rival Dr. West who dabbles in things man should avoid. Meanwhile in June of the year of the Curse, Annabel’s vanishing leads her brother Josiah to search for her.

There is much more to the plot than the above with sidebars, backstories and months to go until Wilson’s collapse, this is a powerful meandering look at America during the first decade of the Twentieth Century in an idyllic academic location. The real American heroes are all male WASPs who commit every kind of social injustice including racism, anti-Semitism and sexism that the history texts choose to ignore. The all over the place storyline is filled with satire on presidents, retired presidents, muckrakers, Ivy Leaguers and the lacquered box owning societal dictators. Fans who appreciate something radically different will enjoy Joyce Carol Oates’ timely (think of the 47% comment) profound glimpse of 1905-1906 society when The Accursed thought nothing of abusing the lesser people under the guise of a white man’s burden.

Harriet Klausner

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