Title: My Heart Laid Bare
Publisher: Dutton/Plume, New York, NY, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition.
Fine unread copy protected by Archival Brodart cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000211
Synopsis: Through a layering of historical events beginning in Colonial times and ending in the 1930s, Joyce Carol Oates has created a new American epic in this sweeping chronicle of the fortunes and misfortunes of a family of enterprising and ingenious confidence artists. "Honor is the subject of my story/ for God is theirs; and the Game, ours." So writes the infamous 19th century con man Abraham Licht in his memoir, My Heart Laid Bare, detailing his personal philosophy and his elaborate, highly profitable deceptions. Like a biblical patriarch, Abraham sees his eternity in his children: Thurston and Harwood, the sons who in emulating their father are led to murder; beautiful Millicent, easily her father's equal in the confidence game, but s he's getting promoted! But nothing goes quite as planned: Leo's mom needs help around the house, there are girls on the baseball team, and Leo has to babysit his pesky little cousin, who won't let Leo alone for a second. Of course, Leo's mean sister Eleanor will be around all summer too. This is supposed to be vacation--is Leo going to have any fun at all? Christine McDonnell lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Brian Karas lives in Rhinebeck, New York.
Review: In this Joyce Carol Oates's novel, a New England confidence man teaches his children the tricks of his trade and sends them out into the world to relieve suckers of their money. The book traces the Licht family's fortunes through the first three decades of the 20th century, as the children come of age, master their talents, and grow away from their father's beliefs. Abraham Licht is a charming but sinister man who is extremely attached to the haunted swamp adjacent to the family home. He schools his children in the arts of assuming new identities and turning one's back on the past, skills which Oates suggests come quite easily to Americans. Licht advises his youngest son, a boy ill-suited to grift, to "assemble your selves with grace," by which he means, be duplicitous and excel at it! Do not bare your heart! However, Abraham's lessons don't stick--one by one, Papa Licht's children let him down. The youngest son becomes a talented musician and composer, while the younger sister devotes herself to a life of helping others as a nurse and suffragette. The other children stick to grift but distance themselves from their father, which breaks his devilish heart. My Heart Laid Bare is a tragic family epic. It is a complicated, ambitious book crammed with ideas, crisply drawn characters, and American history. As Oates unfurls the tragedy, she describes many of the social movements of the early 20th century and posits that this country was shaped by charming, talented liars like the Lichts. --Jill Marquis
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