Books: The Doomed and the Damned

EXPENSIVE PEOPLE by Joyce Carol Oates. 308 pages. Vanguard. $5.95.

Bat cries in the night, cobwebs on the tower stairs—all the exquisitely accumulated gothic horrors—these are the forte of frail, large-eyed women novelists. Joyce Carol Oates, a brilliant writer, offers an updated variation on the genre by taking the American Dream and turning it into a kind of American nightmare.

Expensive People, the middle volume of a trilogy that began with A Garden of Earthly Delights, spooks the suburban-castle country of the upper middle class. Author Oates has but one message in her demonic...

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