Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Particular Set of Russian Nesting Dolls

I finish reading The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates and stare at the ceiling, the back of my hand against my forehead. Try to think. It's not like The Falls, the book that I l loved, at all. And yet I don't hate it, and there is satisfaction in the ending along with that axe grinding. I mean there is JCO's fierce writing, but the first word that comes to mind is: sprawling. It's a sprawling novel, running hither and yon within the sharp confines of a small world that is Princeton.

The plot is like a Russian nesting doll. There is a plot within a plot within a plot within a plot and they all fit together very nicely. All the loose ends—well, by the time you reach The Covenant there are none. Not one. So the next word that comes to mind is: choreographed. It is so tight, and everyone fits so perfectly in their places—to their detriment. They feel so very passive.
Todd is the only one who seems to have a will. And it's all temper tantrums until he finds a secret passage and has to play that life-or-death game of draughts. And that, for me, was the best scene, because when Todd is sweating so that he can hardly see the game board, he at least feels real and alive. The others are like wisps or cut-out paper dolls or are just annoying in their unwillingness or inability to step out of line and assert themselves as characters who might topple the very carefully and ingeniously constructed plot.


Yes, The Accused is very much like a set of Russian nesting dolls, like this set in particular  ...
And, yes, I'll probably read another one of her damned books.