04 October 2010
Book Review: Beasts
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Release Date: 22 November 2002
Date Finished: 3 October 2010
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, R.I.P. V
The Short and Sweet of It
Gillian Brauer is in love with her poetry professor Andre Harrow and fascinated with his wife, Dorcas, a sculptress of primitive and primal female figures. When she enters their world, filled with sex and drugs, Gillian transforms. But does she become more human? Or more beast-like?
A Bit of a Ramble
This tiny book packs quite the punch as it follows a rather masochistic girl into the clutches of two sadistic and self-centered people. We meet Gillian at the Louvre in 2001 where she is struck by a highly sexualized and grotesque female totem. The statue recalls a different time in her life, and the reader is then transported back to 1975 where Gillian is a young, impressionable college student.
Certain words immediately came to mind after reading: dark, decadent, delicious, disturbing. I'm not sure what the significance of the letter 'd' is; although I will admit that the character I found most intriguing was Dorcas, the hedonistic wife of Gillian's crush, and the one I believe was in control of the bohemian lifestyle she lived with Andre. The brevity of the language, the almost pragmatic tone in such a sensuous situation, appealed to me for some reason I can not currently articulate. Not to say the language was sparse or totally utilitarian, just very, very concise.
This work is a living nightmare, peopled with larger-than-life characters and human-animalistic creations which are just as important to the story. The plot is dream-like, told in flashback and concerned more with mood than details of events. The manipulative and sinister nature of Andre and Dorcas heavily contributes to the book's nightmarish feel. Both are extremely manipulative, sensual, and mildly sociopathic individuals. Which equals an awesome read. The only reason this didn't get a buy rating is that while I appreciate the art of it, it wasn't as entertaining as I hoped.
Memorable Scene and Quote: This is the material of nightmare, therefore the material of potentially great art.
This sentence really struck me for a few reasons. At this point in the story, Andre, disgusted with the pedantic poetry of his students, forces them to write completely uncensored journals. Some of the girls immediately jump into this self-revealing activity, discussing sexual encounters, past abuse, etc. I was horrified by the idea of a teacher using his students in this way, manipulating them into satisfying some sick pleasure of his own, an oratory voyeurism.
It also got me thinking though. How many of the truly creative literary geniuses were nutball crazy with nightmares? Is it true that horror makes better artists/authors?
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