Joyce Carol Oates
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A wealthy and notorious clan, the Bellefleurs live in a region not unlike the Adirondacks, in an enormous mansion on the shores of mythic Lake Noir. They own vast lands and profitable businesses, they employ their neighbors, and they influence the government. A prolific and eccentric group, they include several millionaires, a mass murderer, a spiritual seeker who climbs into the mountains looking for God, a wealthy noctambulist who dies of a chicken scratch.
Bellefleur traces the lives of several generations of this unusual family. At its center is Gideon Bellefleur and his imperious, somewhat psychic, very beautiful wife, Leah, their three children (one with frightening psychic abilities), and the servants and relatives, living and dead, who inhabit the mansion and its environs. Their story offers a profound look at the world's changeableness, time and eternity, space and soul, pride and physicality versus love. Bellefleur is an allegory of caritas versus cupiditas, love and selflessness versus pride and selfishness. It is a novel of change, baffling complexity, mystery.
Written with a voluptuousness and startling immediacy that transcends Joyce Carol Oates's early works, Bellefleur is widely regarded as a masterwork—a feat of literary genius that forces us "to ask again how anyone can possibly write such books, such absolutely convincing scenes, rousing in us, again and again, the familiar Oates effect, the point of all her art: joyful terror gradually ebbing toward wonder" (John Gardner).
exclaimed, “Oh, Garnet of course I didn’t mean—” but already she had turned, and was running out of the room, her long hair streaming behind her. He would have pursued her at once, and might have caught her, but in Garnet’s shock she dropped the candle; and once again he had to scramble after it as it rolled, not yet entirely quenched, beneath the bed. “Dear fucking God, why is this happening,” Gideon half-sobbed, his shoulder striking the bedframe (for he was a large man, and could not
casual inquiries about her, but of course no one told him about Cassandra; though they did allow him to know, obliquely, that the young woman’s family background was somewhat common. Nevertheless Lord Dunraven wrote to Garnet, and even sent her flowers upon at least one occasion (so Della reported), and spoke of her with an unembarrassed warmth that indicated his ignorance of his own feelings. She had, he supposed, many admirers? . . . a girl of such quiet charm and beauty . . . a girl of such
must be leaking after all these years. . . . Why does he smile so much? Is that a smile? He’s frightened of us. He’s frightened of Gideon. No, he’s mocking us. You can see it, the way his shoulders swing. The way his mustache twitches. . . . Then he goes off, putting his arms around his lieutenants, and they roar with laughter, they don’t even trouble to disguise their hostility, can’t you see it? I don’t mind the cement floors, or the well, grandfather Noel said slowly, sucking at his unlit
“Oh, Gideon, I love you—” GRUNTING, DELLA CARRIED the squirming thing to the walnut cabinet at the far end of the room, ignoring her daughter’s cries, and pushed aside a silly Chinese porcelain boar’s-head tureen—the costly junk her family had accumulated, she would have liked to make a pyre and burn it all!—and flopped the baby down. And, keeping her back discreetly to the others, blocking Leah’s view if, risen on her elbows, she should actually be watching, with one, two, three skillful chops
of the knife, solved the problem once and for all. She turned to face the room. Drawing her first full breath in many minutes she said, triumphantly: “Now it’s what it was meant to be, what God intended. Now it’s one, and not two; now it’s a she and not a he. I’ve had enough of he, I don’t want anything more to do with he, here’s what I think—” and with a sudden majestic swipe of her arm she knocked the bloody mutilated parts, what remained of the little legs, and the little penis and testicles