Joyce Carol Oates takes on Ivy League society in new novel

Fri Mar 8, 2013 6:42pm EST
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novelist Joyce Carol Oates' latest novel is in the gothic tradition, but not all of the demons that bedevil its blue-blooded characters are of the supernatural variety.

"The Accursed," which came out this week, is set in Princeton, New Jersey, where the National Book Award winner has worked as a professor at the Ivy League university since 1978.

The novel tells the tale of a curse upon the town's elite families during 1905-1906.

A work of historical fiction, the book features President Woodrow Wilson and author-activist Upton Sinclair among its cast of characters.

Oates, 74, the author of more than 50 novels and two dozen short story collections, began the book in 1984, but she said she was unable to develop a satisfying structure for the story until recently.

"I had a project that was very challenging and fascinating, but I never quite felt that the voice was right," Oates told Reuters. "It was too 19th century, so I put it aside and worked on other projects, but every three or four or five years I would take it out and start examining it again."

Told from the perspective of a fictional amateur historian, "The Accursed" focuses on the aristocratic Slade family.

Debutante Annabel is swept away mysteriously on her wedding day and her older brother Josiah struggles to avenge his sister's disappearance while coming to terms with his changing ideals.   Continued...

Writer Joyce Carol Oates poses during a photocall after she won the Literary Award with her book "Blonde" at the 36th American film festival in Deauville September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler