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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 Wilson’s 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 Princeton’s fall rests.

Through van Dyck’s 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 fun—it 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 .)

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