Thursday, April 18, 2013

American Gothic: Joyce Carol Oates

Utter the name Joyce Carol Oates and what comes to mind? Novelist. Essayist. Critic. Poet. Short-story writer. Critically acclaimed. Prolific. Brilliant. Oates is the author of over one-hundred books and has scaled the pinnacle of the New York Times Best Sellers list with her novel We Were the Mulvaneys (1996), which also became an Oprah Book Club pick and a film of the same name. Reading Oates, however, is not for the faint of heart, so fans of light-hearted mysteries and bubbly Chick Lit may want to steer clear. Violence is a theme that appears often in her novels and short stories, and she makes no apologies for it: "I am a chronicler of the American experience. We have been historically a nation prone to violence, and it would be unreal to ignore the fact. What intrigues me is the response to violence: the aftermath in the private lives of women and children in particular." Oates "writes all over the aesthetical map," and creates a bewitching, if not shocking, collage of realism and surrealism, the gothic and the grotesque, in her tales. But her literary art is top notch and she has the awards to prove it, from the 1970 National Book Award (Them) to the 2012 PEN Center USA Award for Lifetime Achievement, and numerous others in between. Undeniably, Oates has mastered both the long and short form of fiction writing, and she has this to say to her detractors: "Perhaps critics (mainly male) who charged me with writing too much are secretly afraid that someone will accuse them of having done too little with their lives." Ladies and gentlemen, this author does not pull her punches! If Joyce Carol Oates sounds like your kind of writer, then do yourself a favor and add her latest novel, The Accursed, to your reserve list now.

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