With last year's A Garden of Earthly Delights, Miss Oates established herself as a writer of stature, and this terrifying novel, while falling back on some too easy shock values, is exemplary in commitment and technique. Again as in The Shuddering Fall (1966) and some of her short stories, she searches for the core of power and violence beneath appearances. Richard Everett, a 250 pound recluse, types out his childhood "disintegration" which begins with "I was a child-murderer" and continues with onion-skinning commentary. In the cool-lawn paradise of super-suburbia, his parents gesticulate in a sterile fashion -- his "noisy, blustering, pathetic, attractive" father and his mother, the beautiful, darkly glittering Nada, a writer of mysterious origins. Thin, stunted, the child Richard is still open to the possibility of sustenance -- strives to please Nada in her pursuit of status culture. Slowly he understands, in his deprivation, that Nada whom he loved hopelessly was a liar and a cheat, and that his "real" father remains hidden or confused. So Richard kills his mother (or did he?) and his father remarries and finally becomes the real father with Godlike punishing "backslaps" --"really pounding you to death." This is not primarily an indictment of suburbia, but a savage exposure of self-orbiting deceptions. . . . Searing, unpleasant, important.