Books »Expensive People

expensive people joyce carol oatesIt's no spoiler to tell you that Expensive People is a faux confession of a child killer. It says so on the first page. Richard, the killer, writing in a gross, rented apartment and now weighing 250 pounds grew up wealthy; bouncing from upper middle class suburb to upper middle class suburb. His father is jovial and his mother is beautiful, mysterious and selfish.

What unravels is a story that leads to the eventual shooting of one of these parents but never explains why. There are definitely lapses in parenting and both of them are often brutish, indifferent, or absent but also at times loving, caring and devoted. He has the kind of upbringing that many people experience without committing violence but, even as a first person narrator, he can't quite explain what's so different about him.

He's very intelligent and over analytical (to the point that he ended up annoying me more than once) and feels detached from the world around him, a world he tries to understand through eavesdropping and spying.

Part of a body of work called the Wonderland Quartet, this is the first novel I've read by Joyce Carol Oates, whose short stories are among my very favorite. While at times I wished the take was a bit more modern, the narrator's voice a bit more natural, it was intriguing enough to ensure the rest of the books go on my wish list.

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Posted on January 28, 2008

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