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Oates, Joyce Carol 1938-

OATES, Joyce Carol 1938-

(Lauren Kelly, Rosamond Smith)

Personal

Born June 16, 1938, in Lockport, NY; daughter of Frederic James (a tool and die designer) and Caroline (Bush) Oates; married Raymond Joseph Smith, January 23, 1961. Education: Syracuse University, B.A., 1960; University of Wisconsin, M.A., 1961.

Addresses

Office Council of the Humanities, 223 185 Nassau St., Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. Agent John Hawkins, 71 West 23rd St., New York, NY 10010; (for plays) Peter Franklin, c/o William Morris Agency, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. E-mail jcsmith@princeton.edu.

Career

Writer. University of Detroit, Detroit, MI, instructor, 1961-65, assistant professor, 1965-67; University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, member of English department faculty, 1967-78; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, writer-in-residence, 1978-81, professor, 1987, currently Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.

Member

PEN, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Phi Beta Kappa.

Awards, Honors

Mademoiselle college fiction award, 1959, for "In the Old World"; National Endowment for the Arts grants, 1966, 1968; Guggenheim fellowship, 1967; O. Henry Award, 1967, for "In the Region of Ice," 1973, for "The Dead," and 1983, for "My Warszawa"; Rosenthal Award, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1968, for A Garden of Earthly Delights; National Book Award nomination, 1968, for A Garden of Earthly Delights, and 1969, for Expensive People; National Book Award for fiction, 1970, for them; O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement, 1970 and 1986; Lotos Club Award of Merit, 1975; Pushcart Prize, 1976; Notable Book designation, American Library Association, 1979, for Unholy Loves; Bellefleur nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize in fiction, 1980; St. Louis Literary Award, 1988; Rhea Award for the short story, Dungannon Foundation, 1990; Alan Swallow Award for fiction, 1990; co-winner, Heidemann Award for one-act plays, 1990; Bobst Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fiction, 1990; National Book Award nomination, 1990, for Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart; National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, and Pulitzer Prize finalist, both 1993, both for Black Water; Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award for horror fiction, Horror Writers of America, 1994; best new play nomination, American Theatre Critics Association, 1994, for The Perfectionist; Pulitzer Prize finalist, 1995, for What I Lived For; Bram Stoker Award, and Fisk Fiction Prize, both 1996, both for Zombie; O. Henry Prize Story, 2001, for "The Girl with the Blackened Eye"; National Book Award, and Pulitzer Prize finalist, both 2001, both for Blonde; Best American Mystery Stories designation, 2002, for "High School Sweetheart"; Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, Tulsa Library Trust, 2002; Common Wealth Literature Award of Distinguished Service, PNC Financial Services Group, 2003.

Writings

FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2002.

Small Avalanches and Other Stories, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2003.

Freaky Green Eyes, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2003.

FOR CHILDREN

Come Meet Muffin!, illustrated by Mark Graham, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Where Is Little Reynard? (picture book), illustrated by Mark Graham, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

NOVELS

With Shuddering Fall, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1964.

A Garden of Earthly Delights, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1967, revised edition, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Expensive People, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1967.

them, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1969, with introduction by Greg Johnson and afterword by Oates, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2000.

Wonderland, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1971, revised, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Do with Me What You Will, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1973.

The Assassins: A Book of Hours, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1975.

Triumph of the Spider Monkey: The First-Person Confession of the Maniac Bobby Gotteson as Told to Joyce Carol Oates (novella; also see below), Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1976.

Childwold, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Son of the Morning, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1978.

Unholy Loves, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1979.

Cybele, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1979.

Bellefleur, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.

Angel of Light, Dutton (New York, NY), 1981.

A Bloodsmoor Romance, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.

Mysteries of Winterthurn, Dutton (New York, NY), 1984.

Solstice, Dutton (New York, NY), 1985, revised edition, Ontario Review Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.

Marya: A Life, Dutton (New York, NY), 1986.

You Must Remember This, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987.

American Appetites, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.

I Lock My Door upon Myself, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1990, revised edition, Ontario Review Press (Princeton, NJ), 2002.

The Rise of Life on Earth, New Directions (New York, NY), 1991.

Black Water, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.

What I Lived For, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.

Zombie, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

Tenderness, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1996.

We Were the Mulvaneys, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.

First Love: A Gothic Tale, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Man Crazy, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

My Heart Laid Bare, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

Broke Heart Blues, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

Blonde, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Middle Age: A Romance, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Beasts, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2002.

I'll Take You There, Ecco (New York, NY), 2002.

The Tattooed Girl, Ecco (New York, NY), 2003.

A Garden of Earthly Delights, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2003.

Rape: A Love Story (novella), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2003.

The Falls, Ecco (New York, NY), 2004.

(Under pseudonym, Lauren Kelly) Take Me, Take Me with You: A Novel of Suspense, Ecco (New York, NY), 2004.

Sexy, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2005.

Uncensored: Views and (Re)views, Ecco (New York, NY), 2005.

NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM ROSAMOND SMITH

Lives of the Twins, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.

Soul/Mate, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Nemesis, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.

Snake Eyes, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.

You Can't Catch Me, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

Double Delight, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

Starr Bright Will Be with You Soon, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

The Barrens, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2001.

SHORT STORIES

By the North Gate, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1963.

Upon the Sweeping Flood and Other Stories, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1966.

The Wheel of Love and Other Stories, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1970.

Marriages and Infidelities, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1972.

The Goddess and Other Women, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1974.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1974, published as Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories, Ontario Review Press (Princeton, NJ), 1993, expanded edition, edited and with an introduction by Elaine Showalter, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1994.

The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1974.

The Poisoned Kiss and Other Stories from the Portuguese, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1975.

The Seduction and Other Stories, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1975.

Crossing the Border: Fifteen Tales, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Night Side: Eighteen Tales, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1977.

All the Good People I've Left Behind, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1978.

The Lamb of Abyssalia, Pomegranate (Cambridge, MA), 1980.

A Sentimental Education, Dutton (New York, NY), 1981.

Last Days, Dutton (New York, NY), 1984.

Wild Nights, (limited edition), Croissant (Athens, OH), 1985.

Raven's Wing, Dutton (New York, NY), 1986.

The Assignation, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Where Is Here?, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Heat: And Other Stories, Plume (New York, NY), 1992.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.

Will You Always Love Me? and Other Stories, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

Faithless: Tales of Transgression, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 2001.

I Am No One You Know: Stories, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 2004.

POETRY

Women in Love and Other Poems, Albondacani Press (New York, NY), 1968.

Anonymous Sins and Other Poems (also see below), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1969.

Love and Its Derangements (also see below), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1970.

Angel Fire (also see below), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1973.

Dreaming America (limited edition), Aloe Editions, 1973.

Love and Its Derangements and Other Poems (includes Anonymous Sins and Other Poems, Love and Its Derangements, and Angel Fire ), Fawcett (New York, NY), 1974.

The Fabulous Beasts, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1975.

Season of Peril, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1977.

Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money, illustrated by Elizabeth Hansell, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1978.

The Stepfather (limited edition), Lord John Press (Northridge, CA), 1978.

Celestial Timepiece (limited edition), Pressworks (Dallas, TX), 1981.

Invisible Woman: New and Selected Poems, 1970-1972, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1982.

The Luxury of Sin (limited edition), Lord John Press (Northridge, CA), 1983.

The Time Traveler, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Tenderness, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1996.

NONFICTION

The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1972.

The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1973.

New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature, Vanguard Press (New York, NY), 1974.

Contraries: Essays, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1981.

The Profane Art: Essays and Reviews, Dutton (New York, NY), 1983.

(Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.

Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates, edited by Lee Milazzo, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1989.

On Boxing, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987, expanded edition, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose, Plume (New York, NY), 1999.

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 2003.

PLAYS

The Sweet Enemy, produced off-Broadway, 1965.

Sunday Dinner, produced off-Broadway, 1970.

Ontological Proof of My Existence, (produced off-off-Broadway, 1972), published in Partisan Review, Volume 37, 1970.

Miracle Play, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1974.

Three Plays, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1980.

Presque Isle, produced in New York, NY, 1984.

Triumph of the Spider Monkey, produced at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 1985.

American Holiday, produced at Los Angeles Theatre Academy, 1990.

In Darkest America: Two Plays, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1991.

I Stand before You Naked, (produced in New York, NY; also see below), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1991.

How Do You Like Your Meat? (also see below), produced in New Haven, CT, 1991.

Twelve Plays, Plume (New York, NY), 1991.

Black, produced at the Williamstown Summer Festival, 1992.

Gulf War, produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre, 1992.

The Secret Mirror, produced in Philadelphia, PA, 1992.

The Rehearsal, produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre, 1993.

The Perfectionist (also see below; produced in Princeton, NJ, 1993), published in The Perfectionist, and Other Plays, 1995.

The Truth-Teller, Circle Rep Play-in-Progress, 1993.

The Perfectionist, and Other Plays, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1995.

HERE SHE IS!, produced in Philadelphia, PA, 1995.

New Plays, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1998.

EDITOR OR COMPILER

Scenes from American Life: Contemporary Short Fiction, Random House (New York, NY), 1973.

(With Shannon Ravenel) Best American Short Stories of 1979, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1979.

Night Walks, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1982.

First-Person Singular: Writers on Their Craft, Ontario Review Press (New York, NY), 1983.

(With Boyd Litzinger) Story: Fictions Past and Present (textbook), Heath (Lexington, MA), 1985.

(With Daniel Halpern) Reading the Fights: The Best Writing about the Most Controversial of Sports, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.

The Best American Essays, Ticknor & Fields (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Daniel Halpern) The Sophisticated Cat: A Gathering of Stories, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings about Cats, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.

The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

George Bellows: American Artist, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(Author of foreword) David Robinson, Saving Graces: Images of Women in European Cemeteries, Norton (New York, NY), 1995.

The Essential Dickinson, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1996.

American Gothic Tales, Plume (New York, NY), 1996.

Story: The Art and the Craft of Narrative Fiction, Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

The Best of H. P. Lovecraft, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1997.

(With R. V. Cassill) The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

(Also author of introduction) Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers, Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Janet Berliner) Snapshots: Twentieth-Century Mother-Daughter Fiction, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 2000.

The Best American Essays of the Century, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2000.

The Best New American Voices 2003, Harvest (San Diego, CA), 2002.

Contributor of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, New York Times Magazine, New York Review of Books, New Yorker, Harper's, Times Literary Supplement, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mademoiselle, Vogue, Hudson Review, Paris Review, Grand Street, Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, and Esquire. Editor, with husband, Raymond Smith, of Ontario Review.

Most of Oates's manuscripts, including her ongoing journal, are housed in Special Collections, Syracuse University Library.

Adaptations

Oates's short story "In the Region of Ice" was made into an Academy Award-winning short feature, c. 1970s; "Daisy" was adapted for the stage by Victoria Rue and produced off-off-Broadway, 1980; the story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" was adapted for the screen as SmoothTalk, directed by Joyce Chopra and produced by Martin Rosen, Spectrafilm, 1981; the story "Norman and the Killer" was made into a short feature; an opera based on Black Water was developed by the American Music Festival Theatre, Philadelphia, with composer John Duffy, 1996; Foxfire was adapted as a motion picture, 1996; Getting to Know You, a film based on Oates's 1992 short-story collection Heat, was released, 2000; We Were the Mulvaneys was adapted as a teleplay, Lifetime, 2002. Some of Oates's works were adapted for sound recordings, including the play Black, L.A. Theatre Works, "The Woman Who Laughed," L.A. Theatre Works, 1994, American Appetites, L.A. Theatre Works, 2000, The Best American Essays of the Century, 2001, Middle Age: A Romance, Blonde, and Big Mouth and Ugly Girl.

Sidelights

Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific writer whose works include novels, short stories, criticism, plays, and poetry. Few living writers are as prolific as Oates, whose productivity has been the cause of much commentary in the world of letters. Not a year has gone by since the mid-1960s in which she has not published at least one book; occasionally as many as three have been released in a single year. As a Contemporary Novelists essayist noted, "Oates is a writer who embarks on ambitious projects; her imagination is protean; her energies and curiosity seemingly boundless; and throughout all her writing, the reader detects her sharp intelligence, spirit of inquiry, and her zeal to tell a story." Although many of her adult works feature teen-aged protagonist, in 2002 Oates addressed herself to teen readers with the novel Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, and has also published the picture books Where Is Little Reynard? and Come Meet Muffin for even younger readers. Other novels for young adults include Freaky Green Eyes and Sexy, the last a story about an emotionally confused high schooler who participates in a hoax that threatens to destroy his English teachers's career.

Born into a working-class family, Oates grew up in rural Erie County, New York, spending a great deal of time at her grandparents' farm. She attended a one-room school as a child and developed a love for reading and writing at an early age. By age fifteen, she had completed her first novel and submitted it for publication, only to discover that those who read it found it too depressing for younger readers. Oates graduated from Syracuse University in 1960 and earned her master's degree the following year at the University of Wisconsin. It was at Wisconsin that she met and married her husband, Raymond Joseph Smith, with whom she has edited the Ontario Review. The newlyweds moved to Detroit, where Oates taught at the University of Detroit between 1961 and 1967. After one of her stories was anthologized in the Best American Short Stories, she decided to devote herself to creative writing.

One of Oates's most popular and representative short stories is "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Frequently anthologized, the story first appeared in 1966 and is considered by many to be a masterpiece of the short form. Relating the sexual awakening of a teenage girl by a mysterious older man through circumstances that assume strange and menacing proportions, it is a study in the peril that lurks beneath the surface of everyday life. With an eye to teen readers, Small Avalanches and Other Stories collects several of Oates's previously published stories for adults as well as new material. The collected twelve stories each deal with young people taking risks and dealing with the consequences that follow. As with her adult fiction, Oates maintains her dark tone; as School Library Journal reviewer Allison Follos observed, each of the tales has "a slow, deliberate, and unsettling current," while James Neal Webb noted in a BookPage.com review that the author's "trademark is her ability to tap, uncontrived, into the danger that's implicit in everyday life."

Oates explores another genre with Bellefleur, A Bloodsmoor Romance, and Mysteries of Winterthurn, which together serve as an homage to old-fashioned Gothic novels. While these novels feature many of the stock elements of conventional Gothics, including ghosts, haunted mansions, and mysterious deaths, the plots are also tied to actual events. Though fanciful in form, they are serious in purpose and examine such sensitive issues as crimes against women, children, and the poor, as well as the role of family history in shaping destiny. Bellefleur, for example, is a five-part novel that presents the saga of a rich and rapacious American family that is haunted by a family curse. Interwoven with the family's tale are real people from the nineteenth century, including abolitionist John Brown and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, the latter who in the novel fakes his own assassination in order to escape the pressures of public life.

Oates's 1993 novel Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang recounts in retrospect the destructive sisterhood of a group of teenage girls in the 1950s. The story is pieced together from former Foxfire gang member Maddy Wirtz's memories and journal and takes place in the industrial New York town of Hammond. The gang, led by the very charismatic and very angry Legs Sadovsky, directs its energy at men, the enemy force Legs perceives as responsible for the degradation and ruin of the girls' mothers and friends. The members celebrate their bond to one another by branding each others' shoulders with tattoos. However, as they lash out with sex and violence against teachers and father figures, they "become demons themselvesviolent and conniving and exuberant in their victories over the opposite sex," wrote Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Cynthia Kadohata. Acknowledging to New York Times Book Review critic Lynn Karpen that Foxfire is one of her most overtly feminist books, Oates explained that she wanted to show that although "the bond of sisterhood can be very deep and emotionally gratifying," it is a fleeting, fragile bond.

Oates' first YA novel, Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, focuses on sixteen-year-old high schoolers Matt Donaghy and Ursula Riggs. The two begin a romance after Matt's poor decision to make a joke to his friends about a school massacre results in a police investigation and Matt's ostracism by most of his classmates. Ursulla, an ungainly but capable athlete whose view of herself as ugly keeps her withdrawn from most of her fellow students, takes a public stand by coming to Matt's defense, despite the fact that she barely knows him. "Oates shows the same skill in portraying family dynamics and violence that she has in her adult fiction," commented Paula Rohrlick in her Kliatt review of the book.

Prompting several critics to compare its storyline to the events resulting in the O. J. Simpson trial of the early 1990s, Freaky Green Eyes also focuses on a teenaged girl who must make a choice about whether action is better than inaction. Francesca "Frankie" Pierson is the daughter of a wealthy but abusive sportscaster whom she idolizes. When her mother seems to intentionally provoke Frankie's father to anger by drifting away from the family, the teen becomes resentful, but after her mother disappears altogether Frankie is forced to view the relationship between her parentsas well as her own role in the dynamic of control and violencein a new way. Praising Oates' for creating a "strong, intelligent young woman" protagonist, Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser dubbed Freaky Green Eyes a "suspenseful story" in which the unfolding drama is "grippingly realistic." A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the novel as a "quietly gripping, beautifully written, impeccably paced psychological thriller," while in Publishers Weekly a reviewer wrote that Oates "builds the mounting tension masterfully, crafting a fast-paced narrative that will haunt readers."

While Oates plans to continue to write for teen readers, she explained to Publishers Weekly interviewer Kate Pavao that young-adult novels would not be a primary focus. "It's probably like a cook, a chef who makes a certain meal and really puts all he has into it," she explained; "then he won't make that meal again for a long time." Still, Oates continues to gravitate to teen characters in her writing for older readers; as she told Pavao, "Adults can live with compromises in a way that children and adolescents find grating. I'm just very drawn to the adolescent personality."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 15, 1987, Volume 52, 2003.

Bender, Eileen, Joyce Carol Oates, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1987.

Bloom, Harold, editor, Modern Critical Views: Joyce Carol Oates, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1987.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 3, 1975, Volume 6, 1976, Volume 9, 1978, Volume 11, 1979, Volume 15, 1980, Volume 19, 1981, Volume 33, 1985, Volume 52, 1989, Volume 108, 1998.

Contemporary Novelists, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Contemporary Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Contemporary Popular Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2: American Novelists since World War II, 1978, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, 1980, Volume 130: American Short Story Writers since World War II, 1993.

Johnson, Greg, Joyce Carol Oates: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1994.

Johnson, Greg, Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

Mayer, Sigrid, and Martha Hanscom, The Reception of Joyce Carol Oates's and Gabriele Wohlmann's Short Fiction, Camden House (Columbia, SC), 1998.

Modern American Literature, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Reference Guide to American Literature, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Short Story Criticism, Volume 6, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.

Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1990.

PERIODICALS

America, March 16, 1996, p. 18; November 17, 2003, Richard Fusco, review of A Garden of Earthly Delights, p. 19.

American Literature, September, 1997, p. 642.

Atlantic Monthly, October, 1969; December, 1973; September, 1997, p. 118.

Book, March, 2001, Susan Tekulve, review of Faithless: Tales of Transgression, p. 70; May, 2001, p. 42; November-December, 2001, Beth Kephart, review of Middle Age: A Romance, p. 65.

Booklist, April 15, 1998, Brad Hooper, review of My Heart Laid Bare, p. 1357; July, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose, p. 1917; January 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Blonde, p. 835; February 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Faithless, p. 1020; July, 2001, Carol Haggas, review of Middle Age, p. 1952; October 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Beasts, p. 300; August, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of I'll Take You There, p. 1886; March 1, 2003, Joanne Wilkenson, review of The Tattooed Girl, p. 1108; March 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Small Avalanches, and Other Stories, p. 1323; September 1, 2003, John Peters, review of Where Is Little Reynard?, p. 130; December 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 660.

Chicago Tribune Book World, September 30, 1979; July 27, 1980; January 11, 1981; August 16, 1981; February 26, 1984; August 12, 1984; January 13, 1985; February 23, 1986.

Choice, March, 1997, p. 1160.

Christian Century, January 13, 2004, p. 7.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 11, 1984; April 25, 1987.

Horn Book, November-December, 2003, Roger Sutton, review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 752; March-April, 2005, Lauren Adams, review of Sexy, p. 206.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of I'll Take You There, p. 1855; April 1, 2003, review of The Tattooed Girl, p. 501, and Where Is Little Reynard?, p. 1201; September 1, 2003, review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 1128; February 15, 2005, review of Sexy, p. 235.

Kliatt, July, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, p. 25; September, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 10; May, 2004, Susan Allison, review of Small Avalanches, and Other Stories, p. 31; November, 2004, Janet Julian, review of Freaky Green Eyes p. 47; March, 2005, Michele Winship, review of Sexy, p. 15.

Library Journal, August 1996, p. 113; August, 1999, Nancy Patterson Shires, review of Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going, p. 89; August, 2000, Mary Jones, review of The Best American Essays of the Century, p. 102; April 1, 2001, Caroline Mann, review of The Barrens, p. 133; July, 2001, Rebecca Bollen, review of Faithless, p. 74; August, 2001, Josh Cohen, review of Middle Age, p. 164; September 15, 2001, Rochelle Ratner, review of We Were the Mulvaneys, p. 130; October 1, 2001, review of Beasts, p. 143; September 15, 2002, Rachel Collins, review of I'll Take You There, p. 93.

Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1981; February 18, 1986; October 13, 1986; November 7, 1986; August 7, 1987; January 31, 1988; July 21, 1988; December 9, 1988; April 16, 1990l April 15, 2003, Josh Cohen, review of The Tattooed Girl, p. 126; October 1, 2003, Marianne Orme, review of The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, p. 75; January, 2004, Josh Cohen, review of Rape, p. 159; February 1, 2004, Joshua Cohen, review of I Am No One You Know, p. 126; March 1, 2004, Rochelle Ratner, review of The Tattooed Girl, p. 126.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 12, 1980; September 19, 1982; January 8, 1984; September 30, 1984; January 6, 1985; March 1, 1987; August 16, 1987; January 15, 1989; May 10, 1992; August 22, 1993; October 22, 1995, p. 6; January 26, 2003, Stanley Crouch, "Picking up Where Faulkner Left Off," p. 3.

Nation, July 2, 1990, pp. 27-29.

New Leader, January-February, 2002, Brooke Allen, review of Beasts, p. 28.

New Statesman, January 27, 2003, Vicky Hutchings, review of I'll Take You There, p. 55; January 19, 2004, Helena Echlin, review of The Tattooed Girl, p. 55.

Newsweek, September 29, 1969; March 23, 1970; August 17, 1981; September 20, 1982; February 6, 1984; January 21, 1985; March 24, 1986; March 9, 1987; August 17, 1987; April 10, 2000, David Gates, "Goodbye, Norma Jeane," p. 76.

New Yorker, December 6, 1969; October 15, 1973; October 5, 1981; September 27, 1982; February 27, 1984.

New York Review of Books, December 17, 1964; January 2, 1969; October 21, 1971; January 24, 1974; October 21, 1982; August 16, 1990; December 21, 1995, p. 32; September 15, 1996, p. 11; September 21, 1997, p. 10.

New York Times, September 5, 1967; December 7, 1968; October 1, 1969; October 16, 1971; June 12, 1972; October 15, 1973; July 20, 1980; August 6, 1981; September 18, 1982; February 10, 1984; January 10, 1985; February 20, 1986; February 10, 1987; March 2, 1987; March 4, 1987; August 10, 1987; April 23, 1988; December 21, 1988; March 30, 1990; August 29, 2003, Michiko Kakutani, "Child of Hell Is Plague on His House."

New York Times Book Review, November 10, 1963; October 25, 1964; September 10, 1967; November 3, 1968; September 28, 1969; October 25, 1970; October 24, 1971; July 9, 1972; April 1, 1973; October 14, 1973; August 31, 1975; November 26, 1978; April 29, 1979; July 15, 1979; October 7, 1979; July 20, 1980; January 4, 1981; March 29, 1981; August 16, 1981; July 11, 1982; September 5, 1982; February 12, 1984; August 5, 1984; January 20, 1985; August 11, 1985; March 2, 1986; October 5, 1986; March 15, 1987; August 16, 1987; January 3, 1988; October 2, 1988; January 1, 1989; January 15, 1989; June 4, 1989, p. 16; May 10, 1992; August 15, 1993; February 13, 1994, p. 34; October 16, 1994, p. 7; October 8, 1995, p. 13; March 10, 1996, p. 7; March 7, 1999, Margot Livesey, "Jellyfish for Dinner Again?," p. 29; September 16, 2001, Claire Dederer, "AARP Recruits," p. 7; January 6, 2002, Amy Benfer, review of Beasts, p. 16; May 19, 2002, Lois Metzger, review of Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, p. 32; July 13, 2003, Sophie Harrison, "Now I Have Saved Her," p. 15.

Observer (London, England), August 27, 1989.

Publishers Weekly, June 24, 1996, p. 44; August 5, 1996, p. 430; April 20, 1998, review of My Heart Laid Bare, p. 45; May 17, 1999, review of Broke Heart Blues, p. 55; June 28, 1999, review of Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going, p. 68; February 14, 2000, review of Blonde, p. 171, "PW Talks with Joyce Carol Oates," p. 172; June 5, 2000, review of Blonde, p. 61; January 29, 2001, review of Faithless, p. 65; March 26, 2001, review of The Barrens, p. 60; August 13, 2001, review of Middle Age, p. 284; October 22, 2001, review of Beasts, p. 43; April 22, 2002, review of Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, p. 71; August 26, 2002, Rachel Collins, review of I'll Take You There, p. 93; February 10, 2003, review of Small Avalanches, and Other Stories, p. 189; April 21, 2003, review of The Tattooed Girl, p. 36; September 15, 2003, Kate Pavao, interview with Oates, p. 65, and review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 66; November 24, 2003, review of Rape, p. 41; February 2, 2004, review of I Am No One You Know, p. 57.

Saturday Review, October 26, 1963; November 28, 1964; August 5, 1967; October 26, 1968; November 22, 1969; October 24, 1970; June 10, 1972; November 4, 1972; August, 1981; March-April, 1985.

School Library Journal, July, 2003, Allison Follos, review of Small Avalanches and Other Stories, p. 134; September, 2003, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of Where Is Little Reynard?, p. 186; October, 2003, Fransisca Goldsmith, review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 174; September, 2004, Jane P. Fenn, review of Freaky Green Eyes, p. 79.

Time, January 3, 1964; November 1, 1968; October 26, 1970; August 25, 1980; August 17,1981; October 4, 1982; February 23, 1987; August 31, 1987; January 9, 1989; April 17, 2000, Paul Gray, "The Anatomy of an Icon," p. 82.

Times Literary Supplement, June 4, 1970; January 11, 1974; September 12, 1980; March 20, 1981; January 29, 1982; January 28, 1983; July 20, 1984; March 22, 1985; October 18, 1985; January 16, 1987; December 18, 1987; February 14, 1988; September 15, 1989; August 13, 1993, p. 19.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 1, 1987; July 19, 1987; April 18, 1988; December 18, 1988; April 15, 1990; March 10, 1996; November 5, 1996, pp. 3, 5.

Washington Post Book World, February 22, 1981; August 16, 1981; September 30, 1984; January 6, 1985; February 23, 1986; November 30, 1986; March 8, 1987; January 8, 1989; April 8, 1990.

World Literature Today, autumn, 1996, pp. 959-960; winter, 2001, Rita D. Jacobs, review of Blonde, p. 115; summer, 2003, James Knudson, review of Faithless, p. 92.

Writer, October, 2001, "Joyce Carol Oates," p. 66; January, 2004, Chuck Leddy, review of The Faith of a Writer, p. 45.

Writer's Digest, February, 2001, Katie Struckel, "Find Identity with Joyce Carol Oates," p. 22.

ONLINE

BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (September 1, 2003), James Neal Webb, review of Small Avalanches and Other Stories. *

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Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

One of the United States's most prolific and versatile contemporary writers, Joyce Carol Oates (born 1938) focuses upon the spiritual, sexual, and intellectual decline of modern American society.

Oates was born into a working-class Catholic family outside Lockport, New York, and was raised amid a rural setting on her maternal grandparents' farm. She attended a one-room schoolhouse in Erie County, a parallel community to her fictitious Eden County where many of her works are set, and displayed an early interest in storytelling by drawing picture-tales before she could write. Oates has said that her childhood "was dull, ordinary, nothing people would be interested in," but has admitted that "a great deal frightened me." In 1953 at age fifteen, Oates wrote her first novel, though it was rejected by publishers who found its subject matter, which concerned the rehabilitation of a drug dealer, exceedingly depressing for adolescent audiences.

Oates began her academic career at Syracuse University and graduated from there as class valedictorian in 1960. In 1961 she received a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Wisconsin, where she met and married Raymond Joseph Smith, an English educator. The following year, after beginning work on her doctorate in English, Oates inadvertently encountered one of her own stories in Margaret Foley's anthology Best American Short Stories. This discovery prompted Oates to write professionally, and in 1963 she published her first volume of short stories, By the North Gate (1963). Oates taught at the University of Detroit between 1961 and 1967. In 1967 she and her husband moved to Canada to teach at the University of Windsor, where together they founded the Ontario Review. Since leaving the University of Windsor in 1977, Oates has been writer-in-residence at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Oates's first novel, With Shuddering Fall (1964), fore-shadows her preoccupation with evil and violence in the story of a destructive romance between a teenage girl and a thirty-year-old stock car driver that ends with his death in an accident. Oates's best-known and critically acclaimed early novels form a trilogy exploring three distinct segments of American society. Critics attribute the naturalistic ambience of these works to the influence of such twentieth-century authors as William Faulkner, Theodore Dreiser, and James T. Farrell. Oates's first installment, A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), is set in rural Eden County and chronicles the life of the daughter of a migrant worker who marries a wealthy farmer in order to provide for her illegitimate son. The woman's idyllic existence is destroyed, however, when the boy murders his stepfather and kills himself. In Expensive People (1967), the second work in the series, Oates exposes the superficial world of suburbanites whose preoccupation with material comforts reveals their spiritual poverty. The final volume in the trilogy, them (1969), which won the National Book Award for fiction, depicts the violence and degradation endured by three generations of an urban Detroit family. Critics acknowledge that Oates's experiences as a teacher in Detroit during the early 1960s contributed to her accurate rendering of the city and its social problems. Betty DeRamus stated: "Her days in Detroit did more for Joyce Carol Oates than bring her together with new people—it gave her a tradition to write from, the so-called American Gothic tradition of exaggerated horror and gloom and mysterious and violent incidents."

Oates's novels of the 1970s explore characters involved with various American professional and cultural institutions while interweaving elements of human malevolence and tragedy. Wonderland (1971), for example, depicts a brilliant surgeon who is unable to build a satisfying home life, resulting in estrangement from his wife, children, and society. Do with Me What You Will (1973) focuses upon a young attorney who is lauded by his peers for his devotion to liberal causes. The Assassins: A Book of Hours (1975) is a psychological tale which dramatizes the effects of the murder of a conservative politician on his wife and two brothers. Son of the Morning (1978) documents the rise and fall from grace of Nathan Vickery, an evangelist whose spirituality is alternately challenged and affirmed by various events in his life. Unholy Loves (1979) revolves around the lives of several faculty members of a small New York college. Considered the least emotionally disturbing of Oates's novels, Unholy Loves was praised for its indirect humor and gentle satire.

During the early 1980s, Oates published several novels that parody works by such nineteenth-century authors as Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Bellefleur (1980) follows the prescribed formula for a Gothic multigenerational saga, utilizing supernatural occurrences while tracing the lineage of an exploitative American family. Oates included explicit violence in this work; for example, a man deliberately crashes his plane into the Bellefleur mansion, killing himself and his family. A Bloodsmoor Romance (1982) displays such elements of Gothic romance as mysterious kidnappings and psychic phenomena in the story of five maiden sisters living in rural Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. In Mysteries of Winterthurn (1984), Oates borrowed heavily from the works of Poe as she explored the conventions of the nineteenth-century mystery novel. The protagonist of this work is a brilliant young detective who models his career after the exploits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. While some critics viewed these works as whimsical, others, citing Oates's accomplished depiction of evil, maintained that they are significant literary achievements.

Oates's recent novels explore the nature and ramifications of obsession. Solstice (1985) revolves around a relationship between a young divorcee and an older woman that evolves into an emotional power struggle. In Marya: A Life (1986), a successful writer and academician attempts to locate her alcoholic mother, who had abused and later abandoned her as a child. Lives of the Twins (1987), which Oates wrote under the pseudonym of Rosamond Smith, presents a tale of love and erotic infatuation involving a woman, her lover, and her lover's twin brother. With You Must Remember This (1987), Oates returned to a naturalistic portrait of families under emotional and moral distress. Suicide attempts, violent beatings, disfiguring accidents, and incest figure prominently in this novel, which centers on an intense love affair between a former boxer and his adolescent niece. Set in Eden County and containing references to such historical events as Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist campaign, the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for conspiracy to commit espionage, and the Korean War, You Must Remember This earned high praise for its evocation of American life during the early 1950s. John Updike stated that this work "rallies all [of Oates's] strengths and is exceedingly fine—a storm of experience whose reality we cannot doubt, a fusion of fact and feeling, vision and circumstance which holds together, and holds us to it, through our terror and dismay."

Oates's works in other genres also address darker aspects of the human condition. Most critics contend that Oates's short fiction, for which she has twice received the O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement, is best suited for evoking the urgency and emotional power of her principal themes. Such collections as By the North Gate; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America (1974); The Lamb of Abyssalia (1980); and Raven's Wing (1986) contain pieces that focus upon violent and abusive relationships between the sexes. One widely anthologized story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?," a tale of female adolescence and sexual awakening, is considered a classic of modern short fiction and was adapted for film. Oates has also composed several dramas that were produced off-Broadway in New York and has published numerous volumes of poetry. In addition, she is a respected essayist and literary critic whose nonfiction works are praised for the logic and sensibility with which she examines a variety of subjects.

them chronicles three decades, beginning in 1937, in the life of the Wendall family. The novel "is partly made up of 'composite' characters and events, clearly influenced by the disturbances of the long hot summer of 1967," Oates acknowledges. She no longer suggests, as she did in the original author's note, that her protagonist Maureen Wendall was actually her former student. That author's note, later repudiated by Oates as a fiction in itself, describes the book as "a work of history in fictional form," and asserts that Maureen's remembrances shaped the story: "[The book] is based mainly upon Maureen's numerous recollections…. It is to her terrible obsession with her personal history that I owe the voluminous details of this novel." Although regarded as a self-contained work, them can also be considered the concluding volume in a trilogy that explores different subgroups of American society. The trilogy includes A Garden of Earthly Delights, about the migrant poor, and Expensive People, about the suburban rich. The goal of all three novels, as Oates explains in the Saturday Review, is to present a cross-section of "unusually sensitive—but hopefully representative—young men and women, who confront the puzzle of American life in different ways and come to different ends."

Further Reading

Allen, Mary, The Necessary Blankness: Women in Major American Fiction of the Sixties, University of Illinois Press, 1974.

Authors in the News, Volume 1, Gale, 1976.

Bellamy, Joe David, editor, The New Fiction: Interviews with Innovative American Writers, University of Illinois Press, 1974.

Bender, Eileen, Joyce Carol Oates, Indiana University Press, 1987.

Bloom, Harold, editor, Modern Critical Views: Joyce Carol Oates, Chelsea House, 1987.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 3, 1975, Volume 6, 1976, Volume 9, 1978, Volume 11, 1979, Volume 15, 1980, Volume 19, 1981, Volume 33, 1985.

Creighton, Joanne V., Joyce Carol Oates, G. K. Hall, 1979. □

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Oates, Joyce Carol

Joyce Carol Oates

Born: June 16, 1938
Lockport, New York

American writer and poet

One of the United States's most prolific (producing a lot of work) and versatile (producing a wide variety of work) contemporary writers, Joyce Carol Oates focuses upon the spiritual, sexual, and intellectual decline of modern American society.

Early years

Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, the oldest of Frederic and Caroline Oates's three children. The family lived on a farm owned by Caroline's parents. Joyce's father was a tool designer, and her mother was a housewife. Oates was a serious child who read a great deal. Even before she could write, she told stories by drawing pictures. She has said that her childhood "was dull, ordinary, nothing people would be interested in," but she has admitted that "a great deal frightened me."

In 1953, at age fifteen, Oates wrote her first novel, though it was rejected by publishers who found its subject matter, which concerned the rehabilitation (the restoring to a useful state) of a drug addict, too depressing for teenage audiences. After high school Oates won a scholarship to Syracuse University, where she studied English. Before her senior year she was the co-winner of a fiction contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine. After graduating at the top of her class in 1960, Oates enrolled in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, where she met Raymond Joseph Smith, an English professor. They were married in 1961.

Teaching and writing

In 1961, after Oates earned her master's degree and began work on her doctorate in English, she found one of her own stories in Margaret Foley's collection Best American Short Stories. Oates then decided on a writing career, and in 1963 she published her first volume of short stories, By the North Gate (1963). Oates also taught at the University of Detroit between 1961 and 1967. In 1967 she and her husband moved to Canada to teach at the University of Windsor, where together they founded the publication Ontario Review in 1974. After leaving the University of Windsor in 1977, Oates became writer-in-residence and later a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Oates's first novel, With Shuddering Fall (1964), shows her interest in evil and violence in the story of a romance between a teenage girl and a thirty-year-old stock car driver that ends with his death in an accident. Oates's best-known early novels form a trilogy (three-volume work) exploring three different parts of American society. The first, A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), tells the story of the daughter of a migrant worker who marries a wealthy farmer in order to provide for her illegitimate (having unmarried parents) son. The woman's existence is destroyed when the boy murders his stepfather and kills himself. In Expensive People (1967), Oates exposes the world of people in the suburbs whose focus on material comforts reveals the emptiness of their lives. The final volume, them (1969), which won the National Book Award for fiction, describes the violence and suffering endured by three generations of an urban (city-dwelling) family in Detroit, Michigan. Oates's experiences as a teacher in Detroit during the early 1960s contributed to her knowledge of the city and its social problems.

Oates's novels of the 1970s explore characters involved with various American professional and cultural institutions while adding tragic elements. Wonderland (1971) is about a brilliant doctor who is unable to build a satisfying home life. Do With Me What You Will (1973) focuses on a young attorney who is honored by his peers for his devotion to social work. The Assassins: A Book of Hours (1975) deals with the effects of the murder of a politician on his wife and two brothers. Son of the Morning (1978) documents the rise and fall of a preacher whose faith is challenged and made stronger by various events in his life. Unholy Loves (1979) revolves around the lives of several teachers at a small New York college.

During the early 1980s Oates published several novels based on works by nineteenth-century authors. A Bloodsmoor Romance (1982) is the story of five maiden sisters living in Pennsylvania in the late 1800s and is influenced by the writings of Charlotte Brontë (18161855) and Emily Brontë (18181848). In Mysteries of Winterthurn (1984), Oates borrowed heavily from the works of Edgar Allan Poe (18091849). While some critics dismissed these works, others, citing Oates's accomplished description of evil, maintained that they are significant achievements in literature.

Other works and other names

Throughout Oates's writing career she has distributed her energies among several projects at once. Her book-length essay On Boxing (1987) led to at least one appearance commenting on a televised boxing match. Around the same time, she submitted a mystery novel to a publisher under a pseudonym (fake writing name) and had the thrill of having it accepted. Oates published the novel Lives of the Twins (1987) under the name Rosamond Smith. "I wanted a fresh reading; I wanted to escape from my own identity," Oates told Linda Wolfe in the New York Times Book Review. Though she used the name again for several other books, she resumed using her name with the publication of My Heart Laid Bare, in which she explores morality (the question of right and wrong) during the 1920s.

Oates's works in other forms also address darker sides of the human condition. Most critics feel that Oates's short fiction, for which she has twice received the O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement, best expresses her main themes. Such collections as By the North Gate; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America (1974); The Lamb of Abyssalia (1980); and Raven's Wing (1986) contain pieces that focus on violent and abusive relationships between men and women.

Later works

In Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (1990), Oates returns to the familiar themes of race and violence. Other works from this time include Black Water (1992), an account of a tragic encounter between a powerful U.S. senator and a young woman he meets at a party, and Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang (1993), which describes the destructive activities of a group of teenage girls in the 1950s. The story is pieced together from former Foxfire gang member Maddy Wirtz's memories and journal and takes place in the industrial New York town of Hammond. Oates also had several plays published and produced in the 1990s.

In 1999 Oates's twenty-ninth novel, Broke Heart Blues, was published. In March 2000 Blonde, based on the life of actress Marilyn Monroe (19261962), was released. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction. In June 2000 Getting to Know You, a film based on Oates's 1992 short story collection Heat, was released. Oates edited the collection The Best American Essays of the Century, which was published in 2000. Middle Age: A Romance, a novel, and Beasts, a novella (a work whose length is greater than that of a short story but less than that of a novel), were published in 2001.

For More Information

Bender, Eileen. Joyce Carol Oates. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Johnson, Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Dutton, 1998.

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Oates, Joyce Carol

Joyce Carol Oates, 1938–, American author, b. Lockport, N.Y., grad. B.A., Syracuse Univ., 1960, M.A., Univ. of Wisconsin, 1961. She taught English at the Univ. of Detroit and the Univ. of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and has been affiliated with Princeton since 1978. Oates writes about contemporary American life, which she sees as often defined by violence. She is particularly concerned with the connection between violence and love. Her characters are mainly ordinary, inarticulate people who sublimate the terrible things that happen to them. Although some of her novels have been labeled gothic, the violence in them is neither mysterious nor necessarily dramatic; it occurs randomly as in everyday life.

Extraordinarily prolific, Oates has published some 140 books in a variety of genres, among them dozens of novels. These include With Shuddering Fall (1964); a trilogy: A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967, rev. ed. 2003), Expensive People (1968), and them (1969); Wonderland (1971); Childwold (1976); Cybele (1979); Bellefleur (1980); Solstice (1985); Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (1990); What I Lived For (1994); My Heart Laid Bare (1998); Blonde (2000), a fictional work based on the life of Marilyn Monroe; Mudwoman (2012); and a Gothic mystery, The Accursed (2013). Oates's numerous short stories are collected in such volumes as Wheel of Love (1970), A Sentimental Education (1981), Heat (1991), Will You Always Love Me? (1996), Faithless (2001), Wild Nights! (2008), and The Accursed (2013). Oates also has written thrillers under the name Rosamond Smith, plus poems, plays, children's fiction, essays, literary criticism, and a book on boxing (1988). After the sudden death of her husband in 2008, she wrote A Widow's Story (2011), a chronicle of grief and mourning.

See G. Johnson, ed., The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982 (2007); L. Milazzo, ed., Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates (1989); biography by G. Johnson (1998); studies by L. W. Wagner, ed. (1979), E. G. Friedman (1980), T. Norman (1984), H. Bloom, ed. (1987), J. V. Creighton (1992), M. C. Wesley (1993), G. Johnson (1987 and 1994), B. Daly (1996), and G. Cologne-Brookes (2005).

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Oates, Joyce Carol

OATES, Joyce Carol

Pseudonym: Rosamond Smith. Nationality: American. Born: Millersport, New York, 16 June 1938. Education: Syracuse University, New York, 1956-60, B.A. in English 1960 (Phi Beta Kappa); University of Wisconsin, Madison, M.A. in English 1961; Rice University, Houston, 1961. Family: Married Raymond J. Smith in 1961. Career: Instructor, 1961-65, and assistant professor of English, 1965-67, University of Detroit; member of the Department of English, University of Windsor, Ontario, 1967-78. Since 1978 writer-in-residence, and currently Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor, Princeton University, New Jersey. Since 1974 publisher, with Raymond J. Smith, Ontario Review, Windsor, later Princeton. Awards: National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1966, 1968; Guggenheim fellowship, 1967; O. Henry award, 1967, 1973, and Special Award for Continuing Achievement, 1970, 1986; Rosenthal award, 1968; National Book award, 1970; Rea award, for short story, 1990; Bobst Lifetime Achievement award, 1990; Heideman award, 1990, for oneact play; Walt Whitman award, 1995. Member: American Academy, 1978. Agent: John Hawkins and Associates, 71 West 23rd Street, Suite 1600, New York, New York 10010. Address: Department of Creative Writing, Princeton University, 185 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, U.S.A.

Publications

Novels

With Shuddering Fall. New York, Vanguard Press, 1964; London, Cape, 1965.

A Garden of Earthly Delights. New York, Vanguard Press, 1967;London, Gollancz, 1970.

Expensive People. New York, Vanguard Press, 1968; London, Gollancz, 1969.

Them. New York, Vanguard Press, 1969; London, Gollancz, 1971.

Wonderland. New York, Vanguard Press, 1971; London, Gollancz, 1972.

Do with Me What You Will. New York, Vanguard Press, 1973;London, Gollancz, 1974.

The Assassins: A Book of Hours. New York, Vanguard Press, 1975.

Childwold. New York, Vanguard Press, 1976; London, Gollancz, 1977.

Son of the Morning. New York, Vanguard Press, 1978; London, Gollancz, 1979.

Cybele. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1979.

Unholy Loves. New York, Vanguard Press, 1979; London, Gollancz, 1980.

Bellefleur. New York, Dutton, 1980; London, Cape, 1981.

Angel of Light. New York, Dutton, and London, Cape, 1981.

A Bloodsmoor Romance. New York, Dutton, 1982; London, Cape, 1983.

Mysteries of Winterthurn. New York, Dutton, and London, Cape, 1984.

Solstice. New York, Dutton, and London, Cape, 1985.

Marya: A Life. New York, Dutton, 1986; London, Cape, 1987.

You Must Remember This. New York, Dutton, 1987; London, Macmillan, 1988.

American Appetites. New York, Dutton, and London, Macmillan, 1989.

Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart. New York, Dutton, 1990; London, Macmillan, 1991.

I Lock My Door upon Myself. New York, Ecco Press, 1990.

The Rise of Life on Earth. New York, New Directions, 1991.

Black Water. New York, Dutton, 1992.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang. New York, Dutton, 1993.

What I Lived For. New York, Dutton, 1994.

Zombie. New York, Dutton, 1995.

First Love: A Gothic Tale, designed and illustrated by Barry Moser. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 1996.

Tenderness. Princeton, New Jersey, Ontario Review Press, 1996.

We Were the Mulvaneys. New York, Dutton, 1996.

Man Crazy. New York, Dutton, 1997.

My Heart Laid Bare. New York, Dutton, 1998.

Broke Heart Blues. New York, Dutton, 1999.

Blonde. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 2000.

Novels as Rosamond Smith

Lives of the Twins. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1987.

Soul-Mate. New York, Dutton, 1989.

Snake Eyes. New York, Dutton, 1992.

You Can't Catch Me. New York, Dutton, 1995.

Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon. New York, Dutton, 1999.

Short Stories

By the North Gate. New York, Vanguard Press, 1963.

Upon the Sweeping Flood and Other Stories. New York, VanguardPress, 1966; London, Gollancz, 1973.

The Wheel of Love and Other Stories. New York, Vanguard Press, 1970; London, Gollancz, 1971.

Cupid and Psyche. New York, Albondocani Press, 1970.

Marriages and Infidelities. New York, Vanguard Press, 1972; London, Gollancz, 1974.

A Posthumous Sketch. Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1973.

The Girl. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pomegranate Press, 1974.

Plagiarized Material (as Fernandes/Oates). Los Angeles, BlackSparrow Press, 1974.

The Goddess and Other Women. New York, Vanguard Press, 1974;London, Gollancz, 1975.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Stories of Young America. Greenwich, Connecticut, Fawcett, 1974.

The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies. Los Angeles, BlackSparrow Press, 1974; Solihull, Warwickshire, Aquila, 1975.

The Seduction and Other Stories. Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1975.

The Poisoned Kiss and Other Stories from the Portuguese (asFernandes/Oates). New York, Vanguard Press, 1975; London, Gollancz, 1976.

The Triumph of the Spider Monkey. Santa Barbara, California, BlackSparrow Press, 1976.

The Blessing. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1976.

Crossing the Border. New York, Vanguard Press, 1976; London, Gollancz, 1978.

Daisy. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1977.

Night-Side. New York, Vanguard Press, 1977; London, Gollancz, 1979.

A Sentimental Education. Los Angeles, Sylvester and Orphanos, 1978.

The Step-Father. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1978.

All the Good People I've Left Behind. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1979.

The Lamb of Abyssalia. Cambridge, Massachusetts, PomegranatePress, 1979.

A Middle-Class Education. New York, Albondocani Press, 1980.

A Sentimental Education (collection). New York, Dutton, 1980;London, Cape, 1981.

Funland. Concord, New Hampshire, Ewert, 1983.

Last Days. New York, Dutton, 1984; London, Cape, 1985.

Wild Saturday and Other Stories. London, Dent, 1984.

Wild Nights. Athens, Ohio, Croissant, 1985.

Raven's Wing. New York, Dutton, 1986; London, Cape, 1987.

The Assignation. New York, Ecco Press, 1988.

Heat and Other Stories. New York, Dutton, 1991.

Where Is Here? Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco, 1992.

Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque. New York, Dutton, 1994.

Will You Always Love Me? and Other Stories. New York, Dutton, 1996.

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque. New York, Dutton, 1998.

Plays

The Sweet Enemy (produced New York, 1965).

Sunday Dinner (produced New York, 1970).

Ontological Proof of My Existence, music by George Prideaux (produced New York, 1972). Included in Three Plays, 1980.

Miracle Play (produced New York, 1973). Los Angeles, BlackSparrow Press, 1974.

Daisy (produced New York, 1980).

Three Plays (includes Ontological Proof of My Existence, Miracle Play, The Triumph of the Spider Monkey ). Windsor, Ontario Review Press, 1980.

The Triumph of the Spider Monkey, from her own story (produced LosAngeles, 1985). Included in Three Plays, 1980.

Presque Isle, music by Paul Shapiro (produced New York, 1982).

Lechery, in Faustus in Hell (produced Princeton, New Jersey, 1985).

In Darkest America (Tone Clusters and The Eclipse ) (producedLouisville, Kentucky, 1990; The Eclipse produced New York, 1990).

American Holiday (produced Los Angeles, 1990).

I Stand Before You Naked (produced New York, 1991).

How Do You Like Your Meat? (produced New Haven, Connecticut, 1991).

Twelve Plays. New York, Dutton, 1991.

Black (produced Williamstown, 1992).

The Secret Mirror (produced Philadelphia, 1992).

The Perfectionist (produced Princeton, New Jersey, 1993). In The Perfectionist and Other Plays, 1995.

The Truth-Teller (produced New York, 1995).

Here She Is! (produced Philadelphia, 1995).

The Perfectionist and Other Plays. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco, 1995.

New Plays. Princeton, New Jersey, Ontario Review Press, 1998.

Poetry

Women in Love and Other Poems. New York, Albondocani Press, 1968.

Anonymous Sins and Other Poems. Baton Rouge, Louisiana StateUniversity Press, 1969.

Love and Its Derangements. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State UniversityPress, 1970.

Woman Is the Death of the Soul. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1970.

In Case of Accidental Death. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pomegranate Press, 1972.

Wooded Forms. New York, Albondocani Press, 1972.

Angel Fire. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1973.

Dreaming America and Other Poems. New York, Aloe Editions, 1973.

The Fabulous Beasts. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1975.

Public Outcry. Pittsburgh, Slow Loris Press, 1976.

Season of Peril. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1977.

Abandoned Airfield 1977. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1977.

Snowfall. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1978.

Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money. BatonRouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1978.

The Stone Orchard. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1980.

Celestial Timepiece. Dallas, Pressworks, 1980.

Nightless Nights: Nine Poems. Concord, New Hampshire, Ewert, 1981.

Invisible Woman: New and Selected Poems 1970-1982. Princeton, New Jersey, Ontario Review Press, 1982.

Luxury of Sin. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1984.

The Time Traveller: Poems 1983-1989. New York, Dutton, 1989.

Other

The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature. New York, Vanguard Press, 1972; London, Gollancz, 1976.

The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence. Los Angeles, BlackSparrow Press, 1973; Solihull, Warwickshire, Aquila, 1975.

New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature. New York, Vanguard Press, 1974; London, Gollancz, 1976.

The Stone Orchard. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1980.

Contraries: Essays. New York, Oxford University Press, 1981.

The Profane Art: Essays and Reviews. New York, Dutton, 1983.

Funland. Concord, New Hampshire, Ewert, 1983.

On Boxing, photographs by John Ranard. New York, Doubleday, andLondon, Bloomsbury, 1987; expanded edition, Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco, 1994.

(Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities. New York, Dutton, 1988.

Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates, edited by Lee Milazzo. Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1989.

George Bellows: American Artist. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 1995.

Come Meet Muffin (for children), illustrated by Mark Graham. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 1998.

Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose. New York, Plume, 1999.

Editor, Scenes from American Life: Contemporary Short Fiction. New York, Vanguard Press, 1973.

Editor, with Shannon Ravenel, The Best American Short Stories 1979. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1979.

Editor, Night Walks: A Bedside Companion. Princeton, New Jersey, Ontario Review Press, 1982.

Editor First Person Singular: Writers on Their Craft. Princeton, NewJersey, Ontario Review Press, 1983.

Editor, with Boyd Litzinger, Story: Fictions Past and Present. Lexington, Massachusetts, Heath, 1985.

Editor, with Daniel Halpern, Reading the Fights (on boxing). NewYork, Holt, 1988.

Editor, The Essential Dickinson. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 1996.

Editor, American Gothic Tales. New York, Plume, 1996.

Editor, Tales of H.P. Lovecraft: Major Works. Hopewell, New Jersey, Ecco Press, 1997.

Editor, with R.V. Cassill, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. New York, Norton, 1998.

Editor, Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers. New York, Norton, 1998.

*

Bibliography:

Joyce Carol Oates: An Annotated Bibliography by Francine Lercangée, New York, Garland, 1986.

Manuscript Collection:

Syracuse University, New York.

Critical Studies:

The Tragic Vision of Joyce Carol Oates by Mary Kathryn Grant, Durham, North Carolina, Duke University Press, 1978; Joyce Carol Oates by Joanne V. Creighton, Boston, Twayne, 1979; Critical Essays on Joyce Carol Oates edited by Linda W. Wagner, Boston, Hall, 1979; Dreaming America: Obsession and Transcendence in the Fiction of Joyce Carol Oates by G.F. Waller, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1979; Joyce Carol Oates by Ellen G. Friedman, New York, Ungar, 1980; Joyce Carol Oates's Short Stories: Between Tradition and Innovation by Katherine Bastian, Bern, Switzerland, Lang, 1983; Isolation and Contact: A Study of Character Relationships in Joyce Carol Oates's Short Stories 1963-1980 by Torborg Norman, Gothenburg, Studies in English, 1984; The Image of the Intellectual in the Short Stories of Joyce Carol Oates by Hermann Severin, New York, Lang, 1986; Joyce Carol Oates: Artist in Residence by Eileen Teper Bender, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1987; Understanding Joyce Carol Oates by Greg Johnson, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1987; Joyce Carol Oates: Novels of the Middle Years by Joanne V. Creighton, New York, Twayne, 1992; Joyce Carol Oates: A Study of the Short Fiction by Greg Johnson, New York, Twayne Publishers and Toronto, Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1994; Lavish Self-Divisions: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates by Brenda Daly, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1996; Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates by Greg Johnson, New York, Dutton, 1998; Critical Reception of the Short Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates and Gabriele Wohmann by Sigrid Mayer and Martha Hanscom, Columbia, South Carolina, Camden House, 1998.

* * *

Joyce Carol Oates is among the most able American novelists writing today and belongs in a long tradition of serious literary novelists who also had broad popular appeal, including her American predecessors, Edith Wharton and Henry James, as well as their British counterparts, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and earlier, Fanny Burney. Some of her detractors have been suspicious of a writer whose productivity is nothing short of staggering, and they have tended to underestimate her talent, complaining of the looseness of her writing, the sensationalistic nature of many of her stories, and her lurid imagination.

Her recent books invite some comparisons with the writing of John Updike and Saul Bellow. She and Updike share an uncanny knack for understanding middle America, suburbia, and the temper of the times. Updike, too, shares Oates's delight in witches, although the two treat their subjects quite differently. Bellow and Oates have less in common, although both see themselves as novelists of ideas and both have written in a comedic and parodic style about the academy. Bellow is a wittier writer and the more elegant stylist. Both authors have very recently produced imaginative accounts of public figures, prompting critics to ponder the motives behind their choice of subject and to raise interesting questions about the relationship between a writer and real life and how those relationships translate themselves in fiction.

Bellow's novel, Ravelstein, and Oates's novel, Blonde, take as their subject Allan Bloom and Norma Jean Baker"Marilyn Monroe," respectively. Both authors made their careers at universities and both fill their books with references and allusions to the world of ideas and literature. Bloom, the real man behind the fictive Ravelstein, was a professor in the Committee of Social Thought at the University of Chicago and a close friend of the author. He was heralded as the darling of the right wing conservatives when his book, The Closing of the American Mind, was at the height of its popularity. Blonde 's subject is the life of the very troubled woman-made-star and sex goddess, whose screen image circulated globally, receiving more adulation and attention than most any other star in this century. Oates is the latest of a number of famous artists and writers who have chosen to write about or paint Monroe, including Gloria Steinem, Norman Mailer, and Ed Paschke.

Oates's decision to write about Norma Jean Baker is not unexpected. It allows her to immerse herself in the distorted psychosexuality of the woman and write about the sex act with an abandon and graphic literalness that has increasingly become part of her style in recent writings. In Zombie she takes on the voice of a sexual-psychopathic serial killer, Quentin P. With chilling effect, she enters the mind of the killer, utterly devoid of conscience, assuming his stream-of-consciousness. She showed her interest in public figures earlier in Black Water where she treated the drowning at Chippaquiddick. Her taste for stories that make screaming headlines and haunt the public imagination for many years to come is one of her trademarks.

The process of myth making that transforms a life into ballads, legends, and stories has long fascinated her. She is intrigued by cult figures and the way they reflect the subterranean needs of their age. Her propensity to write about seemingly vacuous women, usually illegitimate, self-destructive, spoiled, beautiful, and empty, although often in fact, highly intelligent, has been in evidence since her very earliest novels.

Oates may have taken Marilyn for her subject in order to guarantee herself book sales, but a more important motive was probably her desire to write about a woman whose image as much as any other female star in American filmincluding such greats as Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergmannhas captured the American psyche and achieved iconic proportions that ensure her a place in twentieth-century cultural history. The subject allows Oates to explore the ways in which a culture invents such icons. She tries empathetically to capture the psyche of the actual woman, whose life has been appropriated by the media and society, exposing what it must have felt like to inhabit her body and mind. This act of recuperation is precisely the kind of challenge that Oates the thinker has always found attractive.

Blonde has sparked a range of responses and in curious ways contributed to the view of Oates as a glib, often sloppy, writer, with too predictable, albeit grotesque and sometimes sleazy, an imagination. The book does have its fair share of anachronisms, inconsistencies, and erratic scholarship. Nonetheless, it brilliantly expresses the inner and outer life of this film goddess/whore and captures the world of Hollywood, California and New York and its school of Method Acting replete with all their personalities. The book's narrative structure is complex. Oates assumes many voices and perspectives in order to show, as Jean-Paul Sartre is quoted to say on the opening pages, how "Genius is not a gift, but the way a person invents in desperate circumstances."

Opening with the section "Special Delivery" in which a package is handed to Marilyn by Death in an early evening in Brentwood, California, on August 3, 1962, the novel chronicles Baker's life as a child, a girl, a woman, "Marilyn," and her afterlife years. It concludes with her actual death, deciding to draw on one of the controversial accounts of Marilyn's last hours. She has Marilyn die at the hands of the Sharpshooter, an employee of the Agency, who inserts a lethal dose of Nembutal directly into her heart. Oates describes her book as fictive, in which she creates the radically distilled "life" of Monroe, collapsing twelve sets of foster parents into one frightening pair, and making other alterations, including her version of Monroe's death, to fit her needs as a novelist. As is her practice, she draws heavily on biographical sources on Marilyn and on the film-industry to give her book a richness of specificity that is characteristic of her best writing. She does not use original material or interviews since a determination of the facts of Marilyn's life is not of paramount importance. She does a superb job of studying film footage, photographs, and the famous nude poster and finding the exact words to call up the image and to describe Monroe's excitement and genius when in front of the camera.

She fully enters into her subject, penning some of Marilyn's poems and constructing the dialogues between Marilyn and her three husbands that have a ring of authenticitythe reader almost believes that these must really have been her words, the way she would talk with the Ex-Athlete, the Playwright, and the President, the names Oates assigns to Marilyn's two husbands, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, and her lover, John F. Kennedy. Two other screen presences, The Fair Prince and the Dark Prince, frame Oates's account of Norma Jean's life and explain, mythopoetically, the source of the child's love affair with her Magic Image in the mirror. The little girl sits in movie houses, watching these two enchanted creatures, awaiting their final perfect kiss, fearing there will be no closure, and wanting to be in life what she has seen in the movies, an image that has no other meaning beyond itself. Ultimately, it is Cass Chaplin whose final package to her practices a joke so cruel that only Nembutal can ease her. He is the doomed son of the silent movie star, Charlie Chaplin. It is Charlie Chaplin's dark eyes gazing out of a poster from City-Lights that lit up Norma Jean's world when she lived in squalor as a child with her mentally unstable, finally unfit, mother. This alcoholic, drug-besotted man with movie-star good looks is at once her kindred spirit in the novel and her cruel betrayer.

Bellow states that he wrote Ravelstein to honor a promise to his friend and colleague to write about him and give him immortality. The book also allowed him to more nakedly treat himself in fiction, under the guise of Chick, than he had done before, and it offered him a chance of write of his own near-death experience and his gratitude and love for his young wife. Most important, it expresses his love for not just the character in the book, but for the man whose life became his subject. In this sense, this last book of Bellow's is more revealing than any other. In Oates's case, the motive for the book must lie in her preoccupation with myths and how they express themselves in today's American culture and her desire to redeem Monroe from the unnatural, almost caricatured woman that circulates in late twentieth-century discourse. At a deeper level, her need to get way inside of Norma Jean Baker and her inventions, suggests that Oates's own writings, so full of inventions and fabulations, answer some urgent need to find words that can give expression to some fundamental truthsoften unnamable or unspeakable until a writer finds words for themabout lived experience.

Any assessment of Oates's accomplishments should admit that the sheer quantity and range of her writing is impressive. In addition to her numerous novels since her first, With Shuddering Fall, she has written many volumes of short stories, poems, plays, and criticism. She usually writes about extraordinary people whose fanatical desire to compel life to conform to their vision finally becomes all consuming and self-destructive. Most frequently, these figures are imaginary. In Blonde, Oates totally invests herself in creating the inner life of the quintessential doomed woman, Marilyn Monroe. In all of these books, Oates relentlessly charts the disintegration of the self.

Son of the Morning offers perhaps her most shocking and gripping exploration of this theme. A Pentecostal preacher, Nathanael Vickery, witnesses seven visitations from the Lord, each more terrifying than the last. Nathanael is left with the knowledge that God has withdrawn himself and left him to sink back into oblivion and write the book of himself. In other novels, Oates moves beyond a vision in which man can free himself only through an explosion of violence. These novels work toward quieter endings in which her central protagonists survive and transcend their nightmarish experiences to construct more stable lives, integrating themselves into the social fabric.

In one of her recent novels, Broke Heart Blues, she tells the story of John Reddy Heart, an adolescent 1960s heroa sort of combination of Jimmy Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presleywho is accused of murdering his mother's lover in her bed when he is sixteen years old. The novel covers more than thirty years and is written largely from the point of view of John Reddy Heart's idols. It includes a section where Heart finally unfolds his story, totally reframing the incidents of the night in question. He depicts a very different, and wholly innocent, man complete with his sense of self-sacrifice which has molded his life to the needs of the moment, where he has simply "done what he had to do" and allowed others, also, to "do what they have to do." This novel has all the characteristics of Oates's writing at its best. Her sense of the period is uncanny and done with meticulous detail and a feel for the times, the dress codes, the popular music, the favorite films, and so on. She has an absolute flair for dialogue and a genius for types. Her characters come from an affluent upper-state New York suburb. Oates shows them caught up in each fad of their time. Each represents a type but is delineated with breathtaking originality. There are the boy-crazed screaming teenage girls, the elite, snobby group of popular boys and girls who had started school together in kindergarten, the acne-scarred, pimple-faced adolescents, the plain, pudgy-faced sad girl, the rowdies and the straights, and the fat girl nobody liked who was notorious for keeping her Death Chronicles. You cannot read about these characters without recalling your own teenage years and all the subsequent reunions. The novel's ending is a tour-de-force as Oates chronicles the final thirtieth reunion and all the misadventures as well as successes that attend it. It weirdly echoes the language and structure of James Joyce and Anthony Burgess in a way the reader will relish.

Oates also exploits the macabre. In Black Water, she delves into the consciousness and the experience of drowning in her imaginative recreation of the Teddy Kennedy/Mary Jo Kopechne incident at Chippaquiddick. In Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Maddy-Monkey, the official chronicler of the gang, shares the secrets and rites of the gang. She dwells on the fateful year of 1956 when their crimes led to the notorious kidnapping and ransoming of Whitney Kellogg, Jr. Their leader, Legs Sadovsky, mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again, or at least the chronicler of the confessions is uncertain that a recent sighting has any validity. An even more disturbing portrait of a deranged mind appears in Zombie, reminiscent of Paul Theroux's shocking novel, Chicago Loop, published five years earlier and similarly offering the stream-of-consciousness of a perverted mind.

Oates's appetite as a writer is as voracious as the will of her most willful protagonists. She consumes and disgorges experience, her own and that of others. She has recast the visions and stories of numerous writers, exhibiting her debt to Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Mann, and Balzac while remaining firmly planted in the American realistic and naturalistic narrative traditions. She has imaginatively entered in the lives of Pentecostal preachers, children of the slums, a nineteenth-century detective, professors in academia, schoolteachers, artists, a drowned woman, and countless others.

Although there are Continental influences, her writing is thoroughly American, after the manner of Fitzgerald and Faulkner, Dreiser, Farrell, and Mailer. Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County is her fictitious Eden County, set near Millersport, New York, where she lived as a child. Farrell's Chicago is her Detroit: Studs Lonigan is made over into Jules and Maureen Wendall in Them. Fitzgerald's Gatsby is her Jules, a man in love with the aloofness money brings, crazily hungry for Nadine, Daisy's counterpart in Them. Oates is fascinated with property and the violence it engenders in those obsessed with it. She struggles to write an American epic, built around a dynastic family that will express the American experience.

Bellefleur is her ambitious attempt at such an epic, an attempt that eluded the grasp of writers whose talents dwarf herMelville and Twain, Faulkner and Bellow. A Bloodsmoor Romance and Mysteries of Winterthurn continue Oates's treatment of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century America. Each imitates brilliantly the genre of the Gothic saga, the romance, and the detective novel respectively.

Oates is a storyteller of considerable gifts. She is also a writer's writer. In her novels of social and psychological realism, she reveals little interest in postmodern experimental modes, avoiding the dexterous verbal play and intricate parodic structures developed by John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, or Donald Barthelme. John Updike and Bellow are writers more to her tastes. She has also embarked on literary projects in which fabulation, invention, and intertextuality figure prominently. In these, her flair for irony and her playful, sometimes nasty, reimaginings of popular nineteenth-century genres are evident, but the novels remain ultimately stable in their meaning. They are not true works of deconstruction or postmodernity. She often writes with a social purpose out of concerns that are moral, psychological, and political. There are times, however, when the violence in her novels seems gratuitous and the work itself seems, finally, immoral. Expensive People is such a book.

Childwold and Cybele mark Oates's shift away from naturalism, with The Assassins figuring as a transitional, experimental work. The assassin who stalks Andrew Petrie, the one-time senator, is Andrew. The murderer is monistic thinking, the willful fixation upon one idea, be it religious, philosophical, or literary. It severs the individual from the community of man, isolating and destroying him. The monism encases its believer in isolation as total as that which Hugh experiences as a paralytic, breathing with the aid of an iron lung, without his sight. Bellefleur and Unholy Loves few books could be less aliketestify to Oates's skill and range.

Bellefleur is a vast, sprawling book that weirdly welds the natural and the supernatural together to create a psychologically and imaginatively plausible history of six generations of the Bellefleur family from 1744 to the present. The book stretches the genre of American Gothic, including history in its domain. Unholy Loves is a tightly constructed, unified book: five chapters, five parties, it lays bare the soul of Brigit Stott, a recent divorcée, member of the English department, and a writer in a university modeled after Syracuse University, where Oates earned her undergraduate degree. Unholy Loves and American Appetites belong with Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim and Iris Murdoch's A Severed Head. Unholy Loves contains scenes of erupting violence, but the general atmosphere is one of forced conviviality. Oates knows intimately the scandals of the university, the ambitions, the bitchiness, pomposity, petty jealousy, and colossal loneliness that are endemic to modern university life.

Marya: A Life and Solstice each extend Oates's treatment of teachers and academics. The first is in some ways an autobiographical book, treating in eleven disconnected episodes the life of a woman from her squalid origins to her rapid success as a writer. Solstice is an absorbing study of an obsessive relationship between Monica Jensen, a thirtyish divorcée and teacher in a private school in the wilds of Pennsylvania, and a much older, widowed, eccentric artist, Sheila Trask, whose self-dramatization and self-destructiveness ensnare Monica, binding her in a relationship as passionate and all-consuming as any Oates had earlier delineated.

Cybele and Childwold move away from the quasi-naturalistic fiction that dominated Oates's early writing. Childwold is lyrical. It is set in Eden County. Nature is mysterious and erotic and, in a Faulknerian manner, Oates celebrates the survivors. Cybele is more disturbing. Edwin Locke is the luckless victim of Cybele, the great goddess of nature who asks for nothing less than the life of this man who falls under her enchantment during his midlife crisis. She is a demanding goddess; he pays her the ultimate sacrifice when he allows himself to be consumed by his own passions. He confuses eros with love and falls. The action of Cybele is similar to that of Do With Me What You Will. However, love redeems Elena in the latter novel, whereas Edwin never experiences it. The narrative angle of Cybele shifts, reflecting Oates's desire to move more overtly into the realm of the demonic and the unconscious which dominate her novels Bellefleur, A Bloodsmoor Romance, and Mysteries of Winterthurn.

Much has been written about Oates's obsession with violence. Rape, incest, patricide, infanticide, self-mutilation, animal mutilation, suicide, wife beating, child abuse, murder, and drowning abound in her fiction. Sometimes the violence is gratuitoustoo often it is sensationalbut more often than one wants to admit, it demands to be confronted. Conceptions are violent in her fiction, blighting the children born of them. In Them, Jules is conceived in a coupling that results in the murder of his natural father by his mother's brother, leaving his mother bathed in the blood of her dead lover and hostage to the policemen whose help she seeks. The violence that marked his conception doggedly pursues him. Hopelessly drawn to Nadine, he finds himself the target of her gun after a night of lovemaking in which he could not satisfy her. Later, caught up in the chaos of the Detroit fires, he kills a man and paradoxically recovers himself.

Nathanael Vickery, the Pentecostal preacher of Son of the Morning, is a child born of his mother's rape. Lacking a father, he grows up believing he is God's child and that his will is not his own. The initiation that rids him of this delusion, leaving him a nullity, is a terrifying one. When God withdraws from this man he has inhabited for 35 years, Nathanael is left without words or gestures. He crawls off the platform where he had been preaching before thousands, numbering himself among the damned. Stephen, in The Assassins, and Jebediah, in Bellefleur, are similarly abandoned by the god of their willful self-creation. In Bellefleur Oates includes every one of the violent acts mentioned above and more. Germaine is one of the Bellefleurs who survives. Her father, Gideon, wrecks his vengeance on his past and his wife when he flies his plane into the Bellefleur Mansion, destroying it, himself, his wife, and her numerous followers. The special child he saves is the child whose chilling birth opens the book. She is born a biological freak, with the genitalia of a male twin protruding from her abdomen to be sliced off by her quick-thinking mother. Judith Rossner's Attachments, seems to have had an unfortunate influence on Oates's already sufficiently grotesque imagination.

A Bloodsmoor Romance is a nineteenth-century romance, narrated by a young virgin and chronicling the "ignominious" history of the five marriageable daughters of the Zinn family settled in the Bloodsmoor valley of Pennsylvania. More overtly feminist than Oates's earlier writings, this book has been described as the other side of Little Women, the tale it did not dare to tell. The style is turgid; the tale replete with the trademarks of historical romance-fainting virgins, a sudden abduction, ghosts, and the unspeakable evils of drink and dissipation. An odd mingling of myth and history, A Bloodsmoor Romance and its successor, Mysteries of Winterthurn, indulge Oates's excursions into Victoriana and humor.

Mysteries of Winterthurn disguises itself as a detective story told by an orotund, male connoisseur of criminal investigations while it probes the mystery of personality and religion. The detective-hero, Xavier Kilgarvan, confronts three bizarre cases, each separated by twelve years. The first begins when he is but a twelve-year-old boy, besmitten with his wayward cousin and caught up in a bizarre series of bedchamber murders, the first being the vampirish murder of a child. The second mystery, "Devil's Half-Acre; or the Mystery of the 'Cruel Suitor,"' occurs twelve years later and involves a succession of butchered factory girls. The third case, "The Blood-Stained Bridal Groom," involves an outbreak of frenzy in a disbeliever resulting in the death of a clergyman, his mother, and a female parishioner. The detective finally surrenders to brain fever and forgetfulness rather than know what Perdita, his wayward cousin, has done. The story dissolves into one of radical ambiguity in which guilt and innocence cannot be distinguished. All three of the sagas of nineteenth-century America are full of ghastly circumstances, authorial asides, quaint, baroque descriptions, extravagances, and morbid preoccupations. All three are pointedly feminist. All are stylistically indulgent.

After plumbing the depths of chaotic nightmares and the annihilation of the self, Oates, in the mid-1980s began to reconfigure her tragic vision, concentrating more on a character's capacity to survive and transcend. She revisits the naturalistic landscape of her earlier fiction but with some noteworthy differences. She continues to minutely depict American cultural history, returning to the era of the Depression in flashbacks in You Must Remember This and fleshing out her description of America between 1944 and 1956, complete with bomb shelters and civil defense drills, the adulation of Eisenhower, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and the electrocution of the Rosenbergs. In I Lock the Door Upon Myself, she imaginatively reenters a turn-of-the-century rural community, recounting the narrative of a willful white woman's defiant flight with a black itinerant water diviner. In American Appetites, the main action occurs in 1986. It is set in Hazelton-on-Hudson, New York, at the prestigious Institute for Independent Research in the Social Sciences, yet the book also captures the flavor of the 1980s. Returning to the vein of Unholy Loves, Oates satirizes the petty rivalries and pretensions of illustrious members of the American research university while she unfolds a terrifying story of an eruption of domestic violence that results in the death of the wife and criminal charges against her husband, the protagonist, Ian McCullough. Foxfire is set in upstate New York and the episodes recalled occur in the mid-1950s. Oates explores the sensibility and dreams of the young, impressionable, wild, bad adolescent girl. The story of the exploits of the girl gang members starts innocently enough but draws them into a world of thievery and prostitution and threatens to destroy them all when they act on their kidnapping plot.

The difference in the evolving sensibility of Oates lies in her handling of the aftermath of the violence unleashed in her novels. In Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, You Must Remember This, and Foxfire, the protagonists survive the brutal events that threaten to engulf them. In the first, Iris Courtney is both complicit in a black man's murder of an adolescent thug and a victim of her father's neglect and her mother's whorish, alcoholic life, and yet she endures to move beyond these events in her past. In the second, Enid, suicidal at the opening of the novel and suffering from anorexia nervosa, survives the protracted incestuous relationship with her uncle to marry and come to a forgiveness of those who hurt her. American Appetites, in some respects one of the most shocking novels she has written, also emerges from its dark night of the soul, portraying an altered man, but one capable of a complex moral understanding of the events that led to his accidental killing of his wife in the midst of a marital quarrel. Madeleine Faith Wirst is expelled from the Foxfire gang, miraculously paving the way for her to return to society, have a short marriage followed by divorce, get a university degree, and pursue a career as an astronomer's assistant, probing negative light in films of identical parts of the sky.

It is difficult to know what finally to say about Oates's reliance on violence. It is integral to her visionand surely, it is all-too-much a part of American life, throughout this century. It rivets her action and often constellates her characters. It does not go away. Often it seems to mar her characterization, leaving motives ill defined and murky. The tensions unleashed by the violence threaten the boundaries of her art. But the violence is often believable and it does not let us forget. It stuns us, makes us wonder how the imagination that so clear-sightedly depicts it can remain so remarkable levelheaded and intact. In a book like Blonde the violence is so convincingly portrayed and so much a part of what we know of Norma Jean/"Marilyn" that it is hard to dismiss its explanatory power. Critics continue to say that Oates is obsessively consumed with violence, reveling in its brutishness, caught in its senseless repetitions, salaciously reveling in its psycho-sexual dimensions, thrilled, somehow, by the recurring theme of domination and submission, discipline and punishment.

Oates's fascination with the sport of boxing has fueled the critical response to her writing that is so often colored by references to her gender and the body image of the woman herself. Black Water provides her with an occasion to reflect on the death penalty and the five ways in which it can be carried out in America. It is too easy and misguided to complain that she writes too much and too easily and that she exploits violence in her novels. She is a supreme teller of tales and her imagination never fails to startle the reader. The scene of domestic violence in American Appetites, the circumstances of the drowning in Black Water, the sex orgies and the nude photographing of Marilyn in Blonde are vivid, unforgettable, and original. The first two novels are importantly about crime and punishment, remorse and forgiveness. The latter scathingly indicts the industry, people, and society that created the circumstances in which a "Marilyn" can be made. Oates's excursions into a world of violence and hyperreality touch something little understood. Now that she is tunneling behind the violence, letting the reader see its mainsprings more fully, she makes clearer the end that justifies the experience. Oates is a writer who embarks on ambitious projects; her imagination is protean; her energies and curiosity seemingly boundless; and throughout all her writing, the reader detects her sharp intelligence, spirit of inquiry, and her zeal to tell a story.

Carol Simpson Stern

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"Oates, Joyce Carol." Contemporary Novelists. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Oates, Joyce Carol

Oates, Joyce Carol (1938– ) US novelist, short-story writer, and poet. Oates' debut book of short stories was By the North Gate (1963). Her works, such as the trilogy A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), Expensive People (1968) and Them (1969), are grim chronicles of violence and deprivation in modern America. Other novels include The Assassins (1975), You Must Remember This (1987), and We Were the Mulvaneys (1996).

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"Oates, Joyce Carol." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Oates, Joyce Carol." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oates-joyce-carol