Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. You could fill a Florida ceiling bookshelf with the work of Joyce Carol Oates. She's been publishing since the 1960s at a prolific pace - dozens and dozens of books. Her latest novel is "The Accursed," and reviewer Deborah Harkness says it deserves close attention.

DEBORAH HARKNESS, BYLINE: About a year ago, I heard a rumor: Joyce Carol Oates is writing a vampire novel. Well, that was only partly true. What she did write is "The Accursed." It's a sprawling book, and it's about some terrible things that happen in Princeton, N.J., in the early part of the last century. It starts when a young woman disappears from her own wedding. Everyone knows she left with a handsome stranger. But was she kidnapped, or did she want to go with him?

This is a high-society drama - grand houses, distinguished scholars, the storied university. There's even a vampire, if you're willing to dig for him. But don't let him distract you. The central character of "The Accursed" is actually a historian named M.W. Vandyke II. He's a passionate narrator, but he's also a little cartoony. We follow him through plot detours and discussions while he tries to figure out what's happening in Princeton.

He can't see the bigger picture, but we can. The town is cursed, but it's not the monsters. It's the upper classes of Princeton, the ones who preach and judge with no compassion. There's some disturbing racial violence in this book, class warfare, religious intolerance. It's a story about the hazards of being narrow-minded.

In the end, this book is not a paranormal romance. It's not a page-turner, and it's not an easy read. But if you love stories that peel back the glittering facade of life among the 1 percent, if you love novels from the early 1900s, then "The Accursed" is probably for you.

BLOCK: "The Accursed" is the latest novel from Joyce Carol Oates. Our reviewer is Deborah Harkness, author of the novel "A Discovery Of Witches." And you can find other reviews, and a lot more about books and authors, at NPRBooks.org. For the latest updates, you can like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at NPRBooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.