Joyce Carol Oates
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Finally returned to print in a beautiful new trade paperback edition, American Appetites is classic Joyce Carol Oates—a suspenseful thriller in which the happy facade of an affluent suburban couple crumbles under the weight of tragedy and scandal.
For twenty-six years, Ian McCullough, a demographics researcher at a social science think tank, has been happily married to Glynnis, a successful cookbook writer and a brilliant hostess.
When a drunken argument about a suspected infidelity turns physical, Ian accidentally pushes Glynnis through a plate glass window—or did she fall? Now, Glynnis is dead, Ian is charged with murder, and their American dream is shattered. And soon, in a courtroom where guilt and responsibility become two very separate issues, Ian will stand trial, fighting for his life.
A sophisticated, witty, and chilling novel from the incomparable Joyce Carol Oates, American Appetites explores our insatiable hunger for power, love, and success, and how comfortable, privileged lives—and the course of fate—can be dramatically transformed in an instant.
NUMEROUS DELAYS, including, for some confused and rancorous minutes, the possibility of the trial’s opening being postponed until the afternoon—a document, pertinent to the prosecution’s case, having been misplaced, or lost, and demanded by the court—the trial was finally formally convened: the case of the People of the State of New York v. Ian J. McCullough, on charges of second-degree murder, announced by the clerk of the court, at 10:35 A.M. of February 26, 1988. The prosecutor stepped forward
shook his head no, but may have meant yes; so Meika poured him another glass, which Ian drank down, distractedly, as if it were water. She asked would he care for another of the cocktail sandwiches—smoked salmon with dill on crustless white bread, pâté de la campagne thickly smeared on pumpernickel—she’d brought up on a platter, delicious though slightly stale; they were leftovers from a party of the previous evening. (Ian had come to the Cassitys’, as he’d rather falteringly told Bianca, for
really? To confess? He had not so much as touched the girl; it was not that kind of relationship. (Though she’d offered herself, he supposed. If pressed, he would have had to admit that.) But: Once something is said in a marriage it cannot be unsaid. Those were Amos Kuhn’s cautionary words, and Ian had never forgotten them. (Though he could not now remember what had provoked the remark. Had Amos been in love with a woman other than Elizabeth? Ian seemed to recall rumors to that effect.) Once
sufficient severity to suggest she had been pushed, with considerable force, against the glass. Which might indicate, under the New York State statute, charges ranging from second-degree murder to voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. It was early, not yet eight o’clock in the morning of May 27, the day following Roberta Grinnell’s visit, when two Hazelton police detectives, Wentz and Holleran as they introduced themselves, came to the house to ask Ian a few questions and to take a look, if Ian
well as might be expected under the circumstances. (In fact Bianca had returned from Wesleyan exhausted and undernourished, so obsessed with taking examinations and writing final papers she’d forgotten, she said, to eat and simply hadn’t time for sleep; which hardly mattered, did it? since she’d done so unexpectedly well: all her grades A or A-minus.) They talked for a while of Denis’s sons, both away with summer jobs; and of Malcolm Oliver’s seventeen-year-old son; and Ian made an effort to