Joyce Carol Oates

Them
Il libro segue le vicende di Loretta Botsford, e in particolare dei suoi due figli maggiori, Maureen e Jules.
A sedici anni Loretta vive con il padre, ubriacone, e il fratello Brock, violento e prepotente. Brock la trova a letto con l'amico Bernie e lo uccide. Loretta chiede aiuto all'amica Rita Moreine, ma ad aiutarla e` il poliziotto Howard Wendall, a cui lei si cede il giorno stesso. Loretta lo sposa, ma il matrimonio si rivela uno sbaglio: Wendall non e` migliore di suo padre, viene espulso dalla polizia, parte per la guerra, e alla fine muore senza aver fatto molto per la famiglia; la suocera si comporta da padrona. Loretta stessa non e` certa se Jules sia figlio di Bernie o di Howard. Un giorno decide di trasferirsi a Detroit, seguendo l'esempio di Rita. Intanto i bambini crescono: Jules, ragazzo sveglio ma irrequieto, ha le sue prime esperienze sessuali e si mescola a brutti tipi, Maureen e` una ragazza dolcissima che studia dalle suore, Betty e` una piccola vipera. Loretta di risposa, con un Furlong che si rivela anche lui un poco di buono. Maureen e` morbosamente attratta da un uomo anziano e finisce per fare l'amore con lui e prendere soldi da lui. Diventa cosi` una prostituta senza quasi accorgersene. Quando Furlong scopre i soldi e intuisce cosa sta facendo, la picchia fino quasi a ucciderla. Furlong finisce in carcere, ma Maureen rimane a lungo inebetita. Jules rischia l'arresto e persino la vita. Per amore di una Nadine ruba anche un'auto, ma appena si sente male lei lo abbandona e lui deve ricostruirsi una vita. Maureen, ripresasi decide di sposarsi con un uomo sposato che le vuole bene. Jules ritrova Nadine sposata, si danno un appuntamento, lei sembra voler tornare con lui, ma poi gli spara e quasi lo ammazza. Jules, ripresosi, si associa ad anarchici che stanno preparando i disordini razziali e diventa anche il protettore di una giovanissima prostituta, Vera. Durante i disordini, uccide un uomo a sangue freddo. Loretta lo riveda in televisione, intervistato al fianco di uno degli organizzatori dei disordini.

Bellefleur (1980) follows the lives of 49 members of a family, back and forth in time. Oates loves parentheses and, while they often abruptly interrupt the flow of her writing, the reader has to get used to it. Each chapter works as a story in itself (Calvino-like) so that the book can also be viewed as a collection of short stories. And this is also the book's main weakness, that it feels more like a collection of short stories than as an imposing, whole work.

The Bellefleur castle was founded by Raphael Bellefleur. The story begins with the sixth generation of Bellefleurs, when the family has lost most of its power and money and is reduced in poverty, in particular with Gideon and Leah (who are married although first cousins) and their children Bromwell and Christabel, and with Gideon's brother Ewan and his children Raphael, Violante, Garth. Bromwell is a genius since a child. Raphael is fascinated by a pond where he almost drowned after a child who hates the Bellefleurs hits him with stones. Leah has "powers" that make her win at games.
Another thread of the story has to do with Louis, Jedediah and Germaine, four generations before. Louis is married to beautiful Germains and is searching for his brother Jedediah, who, secretely infatuated of Germaine, has left the family and is roaming the mountains like a hermit. Louis loves him, and doesn't know that Jedediah hates him.
Leah gives birth to baby Germaine, but she is a bisexual monster. Leah's mother does not hesitate and makes the baby normal with a sharp knife. In the meantime Gideon is cheating on Leah with young Garnet. Inspired by her baby, Leah soon becomes obsessed with regaining the land of the Bellefleurs. And she is immediately successful.
Hiram, Leah's uncle, has an argument with his son Vernon, who has found God and does not want to be considered a Bellefleur anymore.
One day Gideon and Ewan find a little child, Goldie, and both end up abusing her. But they take her home and Leah adopts her. Garth falls in love with her.
One day a boy rapes Yolande and the Bellefleurs stone and burn him to death.
Leah also decides to help Jean-Pierre II Bellefleur get out of jail. He was jailed for the murder of eleven men at a disreputable tavern. No relative has visited him in years.
Garth and his child-wife Goldie run away.
During a powerful storm, the castle gives shelter to a very old man, that turns out to be the former lover of Leah's and Gideon's grandmother, Elvira.
Christabel gets married to a noble.
It is discovered that Vernon has always been in love with his cousin Leah. Vernon has become a poet.
Garnet gives birth to a illegitimate baby, Cassandra, and she lets Leah adopt her too so that she can marry a noble English gentleman. One day Cassandra is stolen by a vulture.
Shelter is given also to Nightshade, a dwarf who becomes a faithful servant.
Bromwell leaves the family to study and quickly establishes himself in the academia.
Raphael disappears on a raft as his pond drains. Jean-Pierre II goes mad and kills lots of people around the castle.
In the old days, Violet, Raphael's wife, fell in love with her musical teacher and the clavichord he fixed for her, and then fell into melancholia and eventually took her life after he disappeared.
The founder of the Bellefleur dynasty, Jean-Pierre, was murdered one night, together with Louis and all his (and Germaine's) children. Only Germaine survived.
When Raphael died, his wish was that his skin be used to build a drum that would remain forever in the castle.
Germaine learns to read by herself, demonstrating her own "powers".
Louis' brother Harlan took revenge over the murderers of his family.
Elvira is one hundred years old but her birthday party is spoiled by a great storm.
Ewan has become a sheriff. One day he is shot and after recovering he decides to become a pilgrim.
The founder of the Bellefleur dynasty, Jean-Pierre, had a lover: Lucy Varrell. The people who killed him were the Varrells.
Gideon has become obsessed with flying planes. One night he flies his plane into the castle. A gigantic explosion destroys the castle and kills everybody.
Jedediah was called to go back gome and marry the widow Germaine so that the Bellefleur dynasty could continue. That's how Raphael was born and the castle founded.


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