Also one of my favorite books by Joyce Carol Oates
. I had a friend who kept bothering me to read something by JCO, so one day in my high school's library I started looking and they only had two books. This was one of them.
After attempting, twice, to write a synopsis of the book I think it would be easier to swallow hot coals (more pleasant, as well). After finishing hurriedly (I didn't put it down for days. It was during midterms and I carried it with me and "forgot" to double-check so that I could read) I wasn't even entirely sure that I had read it at all. I turned back and looked at the dedication: This book is for all of us who pursue the phantasmagoria of personality— and I realized that I couldn't have understood it better no matter how hard I had tried because the book presented, in its astonishingly horrific form, that personality is fleeting. I came away with a sense that the book dealt with a protagonist and antagonist, but, just like real life, it kept changing them. It's the story of Jesse (Jesse Harte, Jesse Vogel, Jesse Pedersen) but not as the "good guy" or "bad guy" -- it's his life in its most concise form, with the shifting of personality that befit his situation, or situations, from terror to terror until there is nothing else to say.
And I don't remember the ending. Actually, I don't remember either ending -- she re-wrote it for the paperback version, and nothing in my library has been updated since then, so I had to hunt it down for myself to find out how Joyce Carol Oates really wanted it to end.
Wrote JCO herself: After rewriting the ending of Wonderland for its paperback reprinting in 1972, I ceased thinking about it; I did not want to think about it; of my early novels, it was the one of which readers sometimes spoke in odd, rapturous-accusatory terms—"I was eighteen years old, my roommate at college gave it to me to read, I was up all night, I couldn't put it down. Why don't you write novels like that any longer?" I did not want to write novels quite like that any longer, nor even to reread this specific one, the very thought of which made me feel faint, as if in recollection of some close call, some old, survived danger.
sources: Wonderland, Joyce Carol Oates