Monday, July 21, 2014

Currently Reading: Bellefleur

Most books are best read with a cup of coffee or hot tea. With Bellefleur, I've found that it goes best with a glass of red wine. I think this is because the book is decadent. It's full of luxurious and rich descriptions that are intriguing yet dark. This book is dark, as if every image is shrouded in clouds or a dark shadow.

Joyce Carol Oates, the author of Bellefleur, is the queen of literary gothic writing and this book is absolute proof that she is one of the greatest writers of our time.

This novel, more of a family epic, was published in 1980 but is timeless. It is 729 pages and I cannot offer you a summary of the plot. It is far to complex and is structured unlike most novels, comprised of five books and many chapters. It centers on several generations of the Bellefleur family and their enormous mansion in a mythic place called Lake Noir.

The characters are surreal, as are their actions. They are powerful, exclusive, and mysterious. The small yet distinct character traits are beyond creative: a grandfather who wanted his flesh stretched over a drum, an aunt who is never seen in the daylight, and countless other quirks. The characters are so imaginative and display qualities of magical realism that I find this book mirrors Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. There are small details offered to the reader throughout each page which seem frivolous, but all of them are built upon later and their importance is extracted.

Is is suspenseful and filled with symbolism. It's like a big, epic, literary ghost story. I was reading it in bed the other night and my cell phone vibrated on my bedside table. I was startled so badly because I was engrossed in a particularly suspenseful and frightening part.

I'm still very close to the beginning of the book, especially considering its length, so it will take me quite a while to finish but I'm not in a rush. This is a feat of human talent. I want to enjoy it and carefully read each word to get the most out of this tale. I've mentioned before that Joyce Carol Oates writes her novels out longhand and I can't imagine how a book this long could have all started with a pencil and blank piece of paper.

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