Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In Expensive People, Oates takes a provocative and suspenseful look at the roiling secrets of America’s affluent suburbs. 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.
A National Book Award finalist, Expensive People is a stunning combination of social satire and gothic horror. “You cannot put this novel away after you have opened it,” said The Detroit News . “This is that kind of book–hypnotic, fascinating, and electrifying.”
Expensive People is the second novel in the Wonderland Quartet. The books that complete this acclaimed series, A Garden of Earthly Delights , them, and Wonderland , are also available from the Modern Library.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Expensive People|
|Release Date: 04-22-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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I was a child murderer.
I don’t mean child-murderer, though that’s an idea. I mean child murderer, that is, a murderer who happens to be a child, or a child who happens to be a murderer. You can take your choice. When Aristotle notes that man is a rational animal one strains forward, cupping his ear, to hear which of those words is emphasized—rational animal, rational animal? Which am I? Child murderer, child murderer? It took me years to start writing this memoir, but now that I’m started, now that those ugly words are typed out, I could keep on typing forever. A kind of quiet, blubbering hysteria has set in. You would be surprised, normal as you are, to learn how many years, how many months, and how many awful minutes it has taken me just to type that first line, which you read in less than a second: I was a child murderer.
You think it’s easy?
Let me explain the second line. Child-murderer is an “idea.” I am writing this memoir in a rented room, ignoble enough and smelling of garbage, and outside in the street children are playing. Normal, like you and everyone who chances upon these sweaty words of mine, the children are making noise. Normal people always make noise. So it crosses my desperate, corrupt, cobwebbed mind, my flabby, cringing mind, that those noises could be silenced in the way I once silenced someone else. Already you are struggling and tugging with your distaste, eh? You’re tempted to glance at the back of this book to see if the last chapter is a prison scene and a priest visits me and I either stoically refuse him or embrace his kn