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).
somewhere first, he said vaguely, so that you can buy something. A half-hour should be enough, don’t you think? She laughed, still a little frightened. Wriggled her toes. (How quickly, how miraculously quickly, he was offering her things: clothes, expensive clothes, maybe perfume, jewelry. A summer fur? She’d seen, in a recent newspaper photograph, the “girl” of an alleged gangster, a skinny little pouty-faced thing with practically no breasts or hips, and she was wearing, for a Chicago
thirty feet from the body, twisted about a tree limb. AND SO, GRANDMOTHER Della said, stroking Germaine’s cheek with her cool dry hand that smelled of the harshest soap, you have only one grandfather: a Bellefleur grandfather. The little girl sat motionless, not drawing away from the old woman’s hand. For even to move, at such a moment, would be wrong. . . . They wanted, of course, to kill the baby as well. They wanted me to miscarry. I was four months pregnant with your mother at the time and
sea of the invisible, this vertiginous wave-upon-wave of air upon which he floated, weightless, indeed, bodiless, flying not into the future—which did not, of course, exist in the sky—but into the obliteration of time itself? He directed his trim yellow lightweight plane away from time, away from history, away from the person he had evidently been for so many years: trapped inside a certain skeleton, defined by a certain face. Gideon, Gideon!—a woman called. Ah, what yearning in her voice! Was
cagey head, the perked-up ears that were like a dog’s, the stance of the thing itself, which was like a dog’s, uneasily raised on his hind legs. “You look funny,” Nicholas said, giving Gideon a shove; and quite naturally Gideon shoved him back. Their bowels contracted with fear. Their pulses rang. “A black bear won’t attack,” they told each other, “there wasn’t any danger, d’you see how it walked away?—it didn’t want any trouble from us.” One of the mythologies of their boyhood was established.
then, quite suddenly, Marcus tripped—fell—pitched forward—threw his rider over his head and onto the track—and Jupiter pounded past without an instant’s hesitation. SO GIDEON BELLEFLEUR on his ivory-white stallion Jupiter won the Powhatassie race. And won (it was rumored throughout the region) a considerable amount of money. For the Bellefleurs, being Bellefleurs, and addicted to gambling, had wagered heavily on the race; it was whispered that they had made innumerable bets, under fictitious