Books: Hardscrabble Heroine

A GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS by Joyce Carol Oates. 440 pages. Vanguard. $5.95.

It sometimes struck Clara that her name had nothing to do with her at all. She felt that it was an ugly, stupid name, and if only she had a prettier one—say, Marguerite—some of her yearnings would be satisfied. Not that Clara was ever exactly sure what she was yearning for. Born in a flatbed truck on a muddy Arkansas highway, brought up in a series of squalid, lice-infested migrant labor camps, Clara simply suffered from a painfully tugging notion that life was a nasty, frightening dream, and that...

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