|Joyce Carol Oates
Oates in 2006. Photo: Sarahana Shrestha
||16 June 1938
Lockport, New York, U.S.
||Novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, literary critic, professor, editor
||1967 O. Henry Award
1973 O. Henry Award
1970 National Book Award Pushcart Prize
2010 National Humanities Medal
- Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Connor, Edgar Allan Poe
Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) is an American author. Oates published her first book in 1963 and has since published over fifty novels, as well as many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. Her novel them (1969) won the National Book Award, and her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. As of 2008, Oates is the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professor in the Humanities with the Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University, where she has taught since 1978.
Early life and education
Oates was born in Lockport, New York to Carolina Oates, a homemaker, and Frederic Oates, a tool and dye designer. She was raised Catholic but is now an atheist. Oates grew up in the working-class farming community of Millersport, New York, and characterized hers as "a happy, close-knit and unextraordinary family for our time, place and economic status". Her paternal grandmother, Blanche Woodside, lived with the family and was "very close" to Joyce. After Blanche's death, Joyce learned that Blanche's father had killed himself and Blanche had subsequently concealed her Jewish heritage; Oates eventually drew on aspects of her grandmother's life in writing the 2007 novel The Gravedigger's Daughter. A brother, Fred Junior, was born in 1943, and a sister, Lynn Ann, who is severely autistic, was born in 1956.
At the beginning of her education, Oates attended the same one-room school her mother attended as a child. She became interested in reading at an early age, and remembers Blanche's gift of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as "the great treasure of my childhood, and the most profound literary influence of my life. This was love at first sight!" In her early teens, she devoured the writing of William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, Charlotte Brontë, and Emily Brontë, whose "influences remain very deep". Oates began writing at the age of 14, when Blanche gave her a typewriter. Oates later transferred to several bigger, suburban schools, and graduated from Williamsville South High School in 1956, where she worked for her high school newspaper. She was the first in her family to complete high school.
Oates won a scholarship to attend Syracuse University, where she joined Phi Mu. Oates found Syracuse "a very exciting place academically and intellectually", and trained herself by "writing novel after novel and always throwing them out when I completed them." It was not until this point that Oates began reading the work of D. H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka, though, she noted, "these influences are still quite strong, pervasive." At the age of nineteen, she won the "college short story" contest sponsored by Mademoiselle. Oates graduated Syracuse as valedictorian in 1960, and received her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1961.
Evelyn Shrifte, president of the Vanguard Press, met Oates soon after she received her master's degree. "She was fresh out of school, and I thought she was a genius," Shrifte said. Oates' first book, the short-story collection By the North Gate, was published by Vanguard in 1963.
The Vanguard Press published Oates' first novel, With Shuddering Fall (1964), when she was 26 years old. In 1966, she published "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", a short story dedicated to Bob Dylan and written after listening to his song "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." The story is loosely based on the serial killer Charles Schmid, also known as "The Pied Piper of Tucson". The story was frequently anthologized and was adapted into the 1985 film Smooth Talk, starring Laura Dern. In 2008, Oates said that of all her published work, she is most noted for "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?". Another noted early short story, "In a Region of Ice" (1967), dramatizes the drift into protest against the world of education and sober, established society of his parents, depression and eventual murder-cum-suicide act of a young, gifted Jewish-American student. Like a number of other novels and short stories in her body of work, this was inspired by a real-life incident, and Oates had been acquainted with the model of her protagonist. She revisited this subject in the title story of her collection Last Days (1985).
Oates's novel them (1969) received the National Book Award in 1970; it is set in Detroit during a time span from the 1930s to the 1960s, most of it in black ghetto neighborhoods, and deals openly with crime, drugs, and racial/class conflicts. Again, some of the key characters and events were based on real people whom Oates had known or heard of during her years in the city. Since then she has published an average of two books a year. Frequent topics in her work include rural poverty, sexual abuse, class tensions, desire for power, female childhood and adolescence, and occasionally the supernatural. Violence is a constant in her work, even leading Oates to have written an essay in response to the question, "Why Is Your Writing So Violent?" In 1990 she discussed her novel, Because It Is Bitter, And Because It Is My Heart, which also deals with themes of racial tension, and described “the experience of writing [the novel]” as “so intense it seemed almost electric”. She is a fan of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, describing Plath's sole novel The Bell Jar as a "near perfect work of art"; but though Oates has often been compared to Plath, she disavows Plath's romanticism about suicide and among her characters, she favors cunning, hardy survivors, both women and men. Oates' concern with violence and other traditionally masculine topics has won her the respect of such male authors as Norman Mailer. In the early 1980s, Oates began writing stories in the Gothic and horror genres; in her foray into these genres, Oates said she was "deeply influenced" by Kafka and felt "a writerly kinship" with James Joyce.
In 1996, Oates published We Were the Mulvaneys, a novel following the disintegration of an American family, which became a best-seller after being selected by Oprah's Book Club in 2001. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Oates wrote several books, mostly mystery novels, under the pen names "Rosamond Smith" and "Lauren Kelly."
For more than twenty-five years, Oates has been rumored to be a "favorite" to win the Nobel Prize in Literature by oddsmakers and critics. Her papers, held at Syracuse University, include seventeen unpublished short stories and four unpublished or unfinished novellas. Oates has said that most of her early unpublished work was "cheerfully thrown away."
One review of Oates's 1970 story collection The Wheel of Love characterized her as an author "of considerable talent" but at that time "far from being a great writer."
Oates taught in Beaumont, Texas, for a year before moving to Detroit in 1962, where she began teaching at the University of Detroit. Influenced by the Vietnam war, the 1967 Detroit race riots, and a job offer, in 1968 Oates moved with her husband across the river to Ontario, and teaching positions at the University of Windsor. In 1978, she moved to Princeton and began teaching at Princeton University in New Jersey.
In 1995, Princeton undergraduate Jonathan Safran Foer took an introductory writing course with Oates, who took an interest in Foer's writing, telling him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy". Foer later recalled that "she was the first person to ever make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that." Oates served as the advisor to Foer's senior thesis, an early version of his novel Everything Is Illuminated, which was published to wide acclaim in 1999.
While studying at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Oates met Raymond J. Smith, a fellow graduate student, whom she married in 1961. Smith became a professor of 18th-century literature, and later an editor and publisher. Together the couple founded The Ontario Review, a literary magazine, in 1974, on which Oates served as associate editor. In 1980, Oates and Smith founded Ontario Review Books, an independent publishing house. In 2004, Oates described the partnership as "a marriage of like minds—both my husband and I are so interested in literature and we read the same books; he'll be reading a book and then I'll read it—we trade and we talk about our reading at meal times[...]it's a very collaborative and imaginative marriage". Smith died of complications from pneumonia on February 18, 2008. In April 2008, Oates wrote to an interviewer, "Since my husband's unexpected death, I really have very little energy[...]My marriage—my love for my husband—seems to have come first in my life, rather than my writing. Set beside his death, the future of my writing scarcely interests me at the moment." In early 2009 Oates married Professor Charles Gross, of the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Institute at Princeton. who had been married twice previously. Oates met Gross at a dinner party at her home six months after Smith's death.
Oates is devoted to running, and has written that, "[i]deally, the runner who's a writer is running through the land- and cityscapes of her fiction, like a ghost in a real setting." While running, Oates mentally envisions scenes in her novels and works out structural problems in already-written drafts; she formulated the germ of her novel You Must Remember This (1987) while running, when she "glanced up and saw the ruins of a railroad bridge", which reminded her of "a mythical upstate New York city in the right place".
In 1973, Oates began keeping a detailed journal documenting her personal and literary life; it eventually grew to "more than 4,000 single-spaced typewritten pages". In 2008, Oates said she had "moved away from keeping a formal journal" and instead preserves copies of her e-mails. Oates is a member of the Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Oates writes in longhand, working from "8 till 1 every day, then again for two or three hours in the evening." Her prolificacy has become one of her best-known attributes; The New York Times wrote in 1989 that Oates's "name is synonymous with productivity", and in 2004, The Guardian noted that "Nearly every review of an Oates book, it seems, begins with a list [of the number of books she has published]". In a journal entry written in the 1970s, Oates sarcastically addressed her critics, writing, "So many books! so many! Obviously JCO has a full career behind her, if one chooses to look at it that way; many more titles and she might as well... what?...give up all hopes for a 'reputation'?[...]but I work hard, and long, and as the hours roll by I seem to create more than I anticipate; more, certainly, than the literary world allows for a 'serious' writer. Yet I have more stories to tell, and more novels[...]". In The New York Review of Books in 2007, Michael Dirda suggested that disparaging criticism of Oates "derives from reviewer's angst: How does one judge a new book by Oates when one is not familiar with most of the backlist? Where does one start?"
Several publications have published lists of what they deem the best Joyce Carol Oates books, designed to help introduce readers to the author's daunting oeuvre. In a 2003 article titled "Joyce Carol Oates for dummies", The Rocky Mountain News recommended starting with her early short stories and the novels A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), them (1969), Wonderland (1971), Black Water (1992), and Blonde (2000). In 2006, The Times listed them, On Boxing (1987), Black Water, and High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966-2006 (2006) as "The Pick of Joyce Carol Oates". In 2007, Entertainment Weekly listed their Oates "favorites" as Wonderland, Black Water, Blonde, I'll Take You There (2002), and The Falls (2004). In 2003, Oates herself said that she thinks she will be remembered for, and would most want a first-time Oates reader to read, them and Blonde, though she added that "I could as easily have chosen a number of titles."
For reference to her personal life and recent book "A Widow's Story: A Memoir" see the PBS/News Hour show originally broadcast on February 3, 2011.
Select awards and honors
- 1968: National Book Award - A Garden of Earthly Delights 
- 1969: National Book Award - Expensive People 
- 1972: National Book Award - Wonderland 
- 1990: National Book Award - Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart 
- 1992: National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction - Black Water
- 1993: Pulitzer Prize - Black Water
- 1995: PEN/Faulkner Award - What I Lived For
Short story collections
- By the North Gate (1963)
- Upon the Sweeping Flood And Other Stories (1966)
- The Wheel of Love and Other Stories (1970)
- Marriages and Infidelities (1972)
- The Goddess and Other Women (1974)
- The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies (1974)
- Night-Sides (1977)
- Where is Here? (1992)
- Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (1994)
- Demon and other tales (1996)
- Will You Always Love Me? And Other Stories (1996)
- The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque (1998)
- Faithless: Tales of Transgression (2001)
- I Am No One You Know: Stories (2004)
- The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2006)
- High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966-2006 (2006)
- The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2007)
- Wild Nights! (2008)
- Dear Husband (2009)
- Sourland: Stories (2010)
- Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2011)
Novels as "Rosamond Smith"
- Lives of the Twins (1987) (U.K. title: Kindred Passions)
- Soul/Mate (1989)
- Nemesis (1990)
- Snake Eyes (1992)
- You Can't Catch Me (1995)
- Double Delight (1997)
- Starr Bright Will Be With you Soon (1999)
- The Barrens (2001)
Novels as "Lauren Kelly"
- Take Me, Take Me With You (2003)
- The Stolen Heart (2005)
- Blood Mask (2006)
- The Triumph of the Spider Monkey (1976)
- I Lock My Door Upon Myself (1990)
- The Rise of Life on Earth (1991)
- Black Water (1992)
- First Love: A Gothic Tale (1996)
- Beasts (2002)
- Rape: A Love Story (2003)
- The Corn Maiden: A Love Story (2005)
- Miracle Play (1974)
- Three Plays (1980)
- In Darkest America (1991)
- I Stand Before You Naked (1991)
- Twelve Plays (1991) (including Black)
- The Perfectionist and Other Plays (1995)
- New Plays (1998)
- Dr. Magic: Six One Act Plays (2004)
- LA puta esta en la zona (2005)
Essays and Memoirs
- The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature (1972)
- The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence (1974)
- New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature (1974)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray: Wilde’s Parable of the Fall (1980)
- Contraries: Essays (1981)
- The Profane Art: Essays & Reviews (1983)
- On Boxing (1987)
- (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities (1988)
- George Bellows: American Artist (1995)
- They Just Went Away 1995
- Where I've Been, And Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose (1999)
- The Faith of A Writer: Life, Craft, Art (2003)
- Uncensored: Views & (Re)views (2005)
- In Rough Country (2010)
- A Widow's Story: A Memoir (2011)
- Women In Love and Other Poems (1968)
- Anonymous Sins & Other Poems (1969)
- Love and Its Derangements (1970)
- Angel Fire (1973)
- The Fabulous Beasts (1975)
- Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money (1978)
- Invisible Woman: New and Selected Poems, 1970-1982 (1982)
- The Time Traveler (1989)
- Tenderness (1996)
- The Coming Storm (Forthcoming)
Young adult fiction
- Come Meet Muffin! (1998)
- Where Is Little Reynard? (2003)
- Naughty Chérie! (2008)
- ^ "What Authors Influenced You?", Authorsontheweb.com. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
- ^ "The Program in Creative Writing". Princeton.edu. http://www.princeton.edu/~visarts/cwr/faculty/jcoates.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i Edemariam, Aida. "The new Monroe doctrine", The Guardian, 2004-09-04. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ Oates, Joyce Carol. "Humanism and Its Discontents", The Humanist, November–December 2007.
- ^ a b c d e Reese, Jennifer. "Joyce Carol Oates gets personal", Entertainment Weekly, 2007-07-13.
- ^ Oates (2003.) The Faith of a Writer. p. 14.
- ^ a b Milazzo, Lee, ed. Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates. University Press of Mississippi, 1989. 143.
- ^ Oates, Joyce Carol. "Lowest Ebb: Bound", The New Yorker, 2002-04-22. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
- ^ Phillips, Robert. "The Art of Fiction No. 72: Joyce Carol Oates" (interview), The Paris Review 74, Fall-Winter 1978.
- ^ Woo, Elaine, "Obituaries: Evelyn Shrifte, Longtime Head of Vanguard Press"; Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1999
- ^ "Dedication Of Joyce Carol Oates Short Story To Dylan". http://www.edlis.org/twice/threads/joyce_carol_oates_dedication.html.
- ^ "Charles Schmid, The Pied Piper of Tucson". CourtTV Crime Library. http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/predators/schmid/oates_9.html.
- ^ a b Truman, Cheryl. "Author Joyce Carol Oates is always at her finest" (reprint), Lexington Herald-Leader, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ Spencer, Stuart http://bombsite.com/issues/31/articles/1310, “BOMB Magazine” Spring, 1990. Retrieved on July 19, 2011.
- ^ "Author Focus: Joyce Carol Oates". Darkecho.com. http://www.darkecho.com/darkecho/horroronline/oates.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ a b c Dirda, Michael. ""The Wand of the Enchanter", The New York Review of Books 54.20, 2007-12-20. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ "The Madness of Scholarship". Kennesaw: The Magazine of Kennesaw State College. 1993. http://jco.usfca.edu/madness.html.
- ^ Featured Author: Joyce Carol Oates. With Reviews and Articles From the Archives of The New York Times.
- ^ a b Nash, Margo. "Learning to Write From the Masters", The New York Times, 2002-12-01. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ a b Birnbaum, Robert. "Jonathan Safran Foer: Author of Everything is Illuminated talks with Robert Birnbaum", IdentityTheory.com, 2006-05-26. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ a b "Raymond Smith, 77, Founder and Editor of Literary Journal", The New York Times, 2008-02-27. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ a b Smalldon, Jeffrey. In the December 13, 2010 issue of New Yorker magazine Oates published "A Widow's Story" describing, in touching detail, her last days with, and the death of Smith. "End of story?: Joyce Carol Oates takes stock as she approaches 70", The Columbus Dispatch, 2008-04-06. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
- ^ "Married!". Crossingtheborder.wordpress.com. 2009-05-04. http://crossingtheborder.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/married/. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ Gross, Charles G.,History of Neuroscience in Autobiography, Vol 6,Society for Neuroscience, 2008
- ^ "Joyce Carol Oates Forum with Michael Krasny". Kqed.org. 2011-04-06. http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201104061000. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ a b Oates, Joyce Carol. "Writers on Writing: To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet", The New York Times, 1999-07-18. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
- ^ Campbell, James. "The Oates Diaries", The New York Times, 2007-10-07. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
- ^ Birnbaum, Robert. "Personalities: Birnbaum v. Joyce Carol Oates", The Morning News, 2005-02-03. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
- ^ "The more they write, the more they write", The New York Times, 1989-07-30. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ Johnson, Greg, ed. The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982. New York: Ecco, 2007. 331.
- ^ Davis, Duane. "Joyce Carol Oates for dummies", "Where to start", "Onto the novels" (series of articles), The Rocky Mountain News, 2003-06-13. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ Freeman, John. "Joyce Carol Oates, up close and personal", The Times, 2007-08-11. Retrieved on 2008-10-28.
- ^ "Book News: Daily Oates Consumption", Entertainment Weekly, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ "Off the Page: Joyce Carol Oates", The Washington Post, 2003-10-24. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
- ^ "People and Publishing: Awards," Locus, January 2003, p.8.
- ^ "Chicago Humanities Festival | Home". Chfestival.org. http://www.chfestival.org/fest2006/index.cfm?fa=home.program&id=1236&sec=adult. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "White House to honor 19 with National Humanities Medal and National Medal for the Arts". Washingtonpost.com. 2011-03-02. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/01/AR2011030106522.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "Penn: University of Pennsylvania". Upenn.edu. http://www.UPENN.EDU. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. 1968-10-03. http://www.nationalbook.org/nba1968.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. 1969-11-03. http://www.nationalbook.org/nba1969.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "Joyce Carol Oates - Wonderland". Jco.usfca.edu. http://jco.usfca.edu/works/novels/wonderland.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. http://www.nationalbook.org/nba1990.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ The National Book Critics Circle
- ^ "University of San Francisco (USF) - Celestial Timepiece: the Joyce Carol Oates Home Page". Jco.usfca.edu. http://jco.usfca.edu/awards.html. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- ^ "Folger Shakespeare Library". Penfaulkner.org. http://www.penfaulkner.org/affWinners01.htm. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
Interviews and Speeches:
|Novels by Joyce Carol Oates
|The Wonderland Quartet
|The Gothic Saga
(1980) • A Bloodsmoor Romance
(1982) • Mysteries of Winterthurn
(1984) • My Heart Laid Bare
(1998) • The Crosswicks Horror
|As "Rosamond Smith"
Lives of the Twins (1987) • Soul/Mate (1989) • Nemesis (1990) • Snake Eyes (1992) • You Can't Catch Me (1995) • Double Delight (1997) • Starr Bright Will Be With you Soon (1999) • The Barrens (2001)
|As "Lauren Kelly"
Take Me, Take Me With You (2003) • The Stolen Heart (2005) • Blood Mask (2006)
|The Triumph of the Spider Monkey
(1976) • I Lock My Door Upon Myself
(1990) • The Rise of Life on Earth
(1991) • Black Water
(1992) • First Love: A Gothic Tale
(1996) • Beasts
(2001) • Rape: A Love Story
(2003) • The Corn Maiden: A Love Story
|Young adult fiction