Angel of Light (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
The latest addition to Joyce Carol Oates’s already prodigious output is Angel of Light, her thirteenth novel. Still in her early forties, Oates has also published short stories, criticism, plays, poetry, and has edited anthologies. Most of the action in this latest novel takes place in an “imaginary” Washington, D.C.; it deals with the family of Maurice Halleck, who before his death had served as head of the “Commission for the Ministry of Justice,” which the author insists, “bears no direct or tangential resemblance to the Department of Justice.” The terrible legacy of violence and bloodshed inherited by the Halleck family is a contemporary reenactment of a classical tragedy.
Maurice Halleck was a great-great-great-great grandson of the nineteenth century abolitionist John Brown, whose terrorist raids on slaveholders resulted in his sentence of death by hanging. The title of the novel, in fact, comes from Henry David Thoreau’s “A Plea for Captain John Brown” in which he likened Brown’s execution to Christ’s crucifixion and said of Brown, “he is an angel of light.” The novel’s opening sentence essentially summarizes its plot: “It is a windy morning in early March, a day of high scudding dizzy clouds, some nine months after their father’s ignoble death, that his only children, Owen and Kirsten, make a pact to...
(The entire section is 2173 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
Library Journal. CVI, September 1, 1981, p. 1648.
National Review. XXXIII, July 24, 1981, p. 850.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVI, August 16, 1981, p. 1.
The New Yorker. LVII, October 5, 1981, p. 192.
Newsweek. XCVIII, August 17, 1981, p. 74.
Saturday Review. VIII, August, 1981, p. 44.
Time. CXVIII, August 17, 1981, p. 83.
Wilson Library Bulletin. LVI, October, 1981, p. 145.
(The entire section is 44 words.)