In today’s On the Square , Robert L. Kehoe III reviews the new Joyce Carol Oates novel, The Accursed . Which means that, yes, on top of all the Dickens and the Civil War and the personal great books , we’re giving you yet another book to read:
Oates brings Woodrow Wilsons tenure as university president to life through the voice of a self-made historian, M. W. van Dyck II. Responding to what many have dubbed the unspeakable events of 1905-06, van Dyck intends to see past the shoddy histories and ironically idyllic settings so as to uncover a single Evil upon which Princetons fall rests.
Through van Dycks exploration, the book reveals a world of crippling insularity and naïve optimism. From the blind ambition of Wilson to the revolutionary zeal of the starry-eyed Upton Sinclair (who at one point muses, by removing Capitalism we therefore remove evil), the characters are so self-assured that they are psychologically, morally, and spiritually unprepared for the demonic storm that is brewing within their midst.
Read the rest here . The book sounds like a lot of funit also seems to belong to that very particular and almost always delightful genre of novels, which I can only describe as “terrible things happening at universities.” (See: Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night and Robertson Davies’ Cornish Trilogy .)