1970 -- Them

Elaine Showalter begins her recent introduction to Them (Modern Library paperback edition, 2006) by pointing out that all four books in Oates’s Wonderland Quartet, these written in a remarkable five-year burst, 1967-1971, were nominated for the National Book Award. Oates has written that the novels, taken as a unit, were conceived as “critiques of America—American culture, American values, American dreams—as well as narratives in which romantic ambitions are confronted by what must be called ‘reality.’”


The ambitions are reflected in Oates’s working title of “Love and Money”; the reality of poverty and violence is reflected in the quotation from John Webster’s The White Devil with which Oates begins her story: “…because we are poor / Shall we be vicious?” The reality and the critique are only enhanced by Oates’s tongue-in-cheek comment in her prefatory Author’s Note that her central character survived her “nightmare adventures” to become a Dearborn, Michigan housewife. This mock-comfort to her reader seems cancelled out in Oates’s Afterword, in which she says that completing her Wonderland series allowed her to move “into the yet-uncharted, apocalyptic America of the late Vietnam War period when the idealism of antiwar sentiment had turned to cynicism and the counterculture fantasy … had self-destructed.”

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).