Books: Urban Gothic

THEM by Joyce Carol Oates. 508 pages. Vanguard. $6.95.

The difference between heroes and most people is that heroes have destinies, while most people have only ambitions. With some fine adjustments for human limitations, Joyce Carol Gates demonstrates her intuitive grasp of this fact in Them, the latest novel in what has now become an informal trilogy about people's frantic attempts to free themselves from the complexities of American life.

The first two novels were A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967) and Expensive People (1968), both studies of frustrated love and self-destruction written with the intensity and control of fine short stories. Even...

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