The Accursed (Hardcover)
A major historical novel from "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation)—an eerie, unforgettable story of possession, power, and loss in early-twentieth-century Princeton, a cultural crossroads of the powerful and the damned
Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth century: a tranquil place to raise a family, a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at the edges of the town, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent. A powerful curse besets the elite families of Princeton; their daughters begin disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man–a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil, and who spreads his curse upon a richly deserving community of white Anglo-Saxon privilege. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.
When the bride's brother sets out against all odds to find her, his path will cross those of Princeton's most formidable people, from Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House and retired to town for a quieter life, to soon-to-be commander in chief Woodrow Wilson, president of the university and a complex individual obsessed to the point of madness with his need to retain power; from the young Socialist idealist Upton Sinclair to his charismatic comrade Jack London, and the most famous writer of the era, Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain–all plagued by "accursed" visions.
An utterly fresh work from Oates, The Accursed marks new territory for the masterful writer. Narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling supernatural elements to stunning effect.
“Joyce Carol Oates has written what may be the world’s finest postmodern Gothic novel: E.L. Doctorow’s ‘Ragtime’ set in Dracula’s castle. It’s dense, challenging, problematic, horrifying, funny, prolix and full of crazy people. You should read it... Oates’s hypnotic prose has never been better displayed.”
“Spectacular. . . With its vast scope, its mingling of comic and tragic tones, its omnivorous gorging on American literature, and especially its complex reflection on the major themes of our history, The Accursed is the kind of outrageous masterpiece only Joyce Carol Oates could create.”
“A brilliant Gothic mystery that has the punch of historical fiction. Currents of race, class and academic intrigue swirl under the surface, but it’s the demonic curse that propels the action... Oates casts a powerful spell. You’ll close The Accursed and want to start it all over again.”
“The Accursed is a unique, vast multilayered narrative; a genre bending beast of a book, utterly startling from start to finish, compulsive and engaging, the writing crackling with energy and wit. This is an elaborately conceived work.”
“[The Accursed] is in addition to being a thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship...The story sprawls, reaches, demands, tears, and shrieks in homage to the traditional gothic, yet with fresh, surprising twists and turns... Oates has given us a brilliantly crafted work .”
“Carefully and densely plotted, chockablock with twists and turns and fleeting characters, her novel offers a satisfying modern rejoinder to the best of M.R. James—and perhaps even Henry James.”
“Oates’ atmospheric prose beautifully captures the flavor of gothic fiction . . . In Oates’ hands, this supernatural tale becomes a meditation on the perils of parochial thinking. It demands we think - with monsters - about our failure to face the darkest truths about ourselves and the choices we’ve made.”
“A lush, arch, and blistering fusion of historical fact, supernatural mystery, and devilish social commentary... A diabolically enthralling and subversive literary mash-up. ”
“A smart and relentlessly absorbing read.”
“Joyce Carol Oates is at her gothic best… an astonishing fever dream of a novel.”
“For those who enjoy total immersion in this kind of historical fiction, The Accursed is good fun, as mesmerizing as a demon and as addictive as a patent cure.”
“A fascinating novel in which historical truth and imagination collide to create an unsettling vision of America as it entered the 20th century.”
“The Accursed blends history, horror, fantasy and black comedy into a trippy literary brew. For fans of Oates’ gothic works, this is a heady draught indeed.”
“Regular readers of Oates will be familiar with the game. . . after [new readers make] their way through The Accursed, no one will find it easy to forget.”
“Joyce Carol Oates is at the top of her game in her glorious new novel, THE ACCURSED - a long, lush account of perhaps-preternatural happenings in Princeton, N.J., a century ago.”
“This latest effort looks like a belated candidate for the Great Oates Novel . . . The Accursed is a big, mad, colourful romp, respectful of the literary traditions in which it participates, leavened with a piquant humour.”
“The Accursed is very much in the American gothic tradition of Charles Brockden Brown, Hawthorne, Poe, and Faulkner.”
“In this new novel Oates has achieved a nearly flawless combination of postmodernism, gothic horror, “traditional” narrative, politically engaged literature, historical novel, and popular bestseller—a heady and enjoyable mix.”