CYBELE BY JOYCE CAROL OATES
DUTTON (PAPERBACK), 1979
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In this mordant allegory about deluded obsession, Joyce Carol Oates has transformed the earth goddess Cybele into a goddess of degenerative possession. Edwin Locke, a charming forty-year-old who has never quite found himself, falls easily into his first extra-marital affair. When the novelty wears wanes he seeks to revive his passion with others, submerging himself in a series of increasingly grotesque liaisons.
There was a lover of min who worshipped me, and became reckless with his life, which was soon taken from him – more abruptly than I would have wished, and more cruelly, for I came to pity him in the end.
WHAT I THOUGHT
Cybele is a strange book to review. I enjoyed many things. I thought the characters and descriptions were spot on – typical of JCO’s writing. The writing is very rich and detailed and a hell of a lot happens in such a short novel. I liked the way lust and obsessive lust at that is played out in the novel. Edwin’s situation is recognisable – at first – we’ve all been burned by passion and obsession for someone. I really liked Edwin’s increasingly unhinged behavior. The book is uncomfortable reading at times as Edwin drifts into ever more bizarre affairs and sexual encounters. But! All of this gets a bit tiresome after a while. If Edwin had been obsessed with one woman and stalked her for example, this would have been more satisfying and believable. I just got a bit tired of Edwin’s pathetic sexual encounters. The ending is also quite horrific and utterly bizarre – not in a good way. The ending is hinted throughout the novel but the way this is executed is just weird. Cybele is not a great break or a terrible one it’s just not completely satisfying. The cover is also awful.