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Expensive People (1968)

by Joyce Carol Oates

Series: Wonderland Quartet (2)

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5401036,192 (3.63)21
Set in the late 1960s, this first-person confession is narrated by Richard Everett, a precocious and obese boy who sees himself as a minor character in the alarming drama unfolding around him. Fascinated by yet alienated from his attractive, self-absorbed parents and the privileged world they inhabit, Richard incisively analyzes his own mismanaged childhood, his pretentious private schooling, his "successful-executive" father, and his elusive mother. In an act of defiance and desperation, eleven-year-old Richard strikes out in a way that presages the violence of ever-younger Americans in the turbulent decades to come.… (more)
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» See also 21 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
An early (i968) work by this author; I'd say her writing got stronger in her later works, but this is still pretty compelling., as the 18 year old narrator loks back on his 11 year old self and begins "I was a child murderer."
Child of dysfunctional parents- a financially successful father and a beautiful, faithless and phony author mother- I felt Oates created the whole "feel" of being eleven very well.Country club social events, private school, a maid....and mother always on the cusp of walking out. The uncertainty and constant tension cause the child to develop eating problems...and much more.
Not brilliant like some of her works, but very good... ( )
  starbox | Mar 3, 2021 |
I wouldn't say that I particularly liked or disliked this book, I found it more interesting than anything else. It's very postmodern--having a short story in the middle of the novel, that kind of thing. I would rather this book tell me the story in a more straight-forward way. At times the book seems like an exercise in intelligence for the author. ( )
  danlai | Sep 1, 2014 |
I must really love tragic tales about messed up people. I wonder if this reflects on me at all? This book is one of Oates earlier works and is part of the Wonderland Quartet. The quartet is a group of individual novels with an underlying common theme. These books explore social class by delving deep into a character growing up in America. Sounds like many books you've heard of? Well this is done by Oates and with each book my awe of her writing and stories grows. She understands that humans are not perfect but that society tries to bend us a certain way (especially Americans).

What made me put this in one of my favorites was her unique way on conveying the character. She writes this as a memoir and the way she does it isn't necessarily convincing but enchanting? It's hard to describe. One of my favorite parts of the book was when she had Richard writing fake reviews for his fake memoir. This had me laughing, which isn't my usual reaction to anything I've read by her yet. She calls out every reviewer, imitates their style and then mocks them completely showing us how complete shit reviews can be (especially the ones selected for book jackets). This was such a small and insignificant part of the book but also develops the character in such a creative way. Richard stops to comment on his own work, explain something or even add which made him even more real.

I can't wait to continue on the Quartet but it seems "Them" is not available on ebook anywhere! I guess I'll have to search the libraries or used book stores.

( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Excellent book. Nabokov meets Rushmore. This. Oomph is so terrific on so many different levels. It is a work of comic genius, literally laugh out loud stuff. The aesthetics of the writing is unrivaled, almost each sentence stands alone. Lastly it is a work of profound human sentiment. Truly a modern classic that deserves to be read. ( )
  RDHawk6886 | May 15, 2012 |
Interesting book that started a little slow but grew on me and i was very intrigued at the end. An odd expose from the perspective of the child who murdered.....a haunting portrait was created that made me feel blessed for having the great childhood that i had.....another good read from Oates...who intrigues me because her books are all seemingly unrelated....no set pattern or predictability yet to me....and she is rather prolific....have a lot more to go...looking forward to reading some more. ( )
  jeffome | Dec 5, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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Set in the late 1960s, this first-person confession is narrated by Richard Everett, a precocious and obese boy who sees himself as a minor character in the alarming drama unfolding around him. Fascinated by yet alienated from his attractive, self-absorbed parents and the privileged world they inhabit, Richard incisively analyzes his own mismanaged childhood, his pretentious private schooling, his "successful-executive" father, and his elusive mother. In an act of defiance and desperation, eleven-year-old Richard strikes out in a way that presages the violence of ever-younger Americans in the turbulent decades to come.

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Expensive, affluent, yes - but morally bankrupt. This is the suburban society from which Joyce Carol Oates carves an electrifying novel of Gothic suspence. Expensive People is the journal of Richard Elwood, an overweight eighteen-year-old, looking back with disaffection at his childhood in a succession of wealthy suburbs. He buys a gun by mail-order ('German Sniper Rifle used by Mad Fanatic SS Men. Limited Number!') and roams the neighbourhood at night...The suspense is terrifying, the writing lethal. The first sentence is guaranteed to rivet your eyes to the page: 'I was a child murderer', Richard begins his memoir. Now read on...
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