American writer Joyce Carol Oates turns 74 today. From her first book – the collection of stories By the North Gate – to her most recent novels, stories, memoir and other pieces of writing, Oates has maintained a daunting literary output that is yet accessible and diverse.
Oates’s body of work includes short story collections (among the most comprehensive are The Wheel of Love, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, and High Lonesome), collections of poetry, drama, and criticism, works for children and young adults, and even a number of works authored under pseudonyms (mysteries written as “Lauren Kelly” and “Rosamond Smith,” and stories written in the persona of the fictitious Portuguese writer Fernandes). Perhaps her most celebrated works, though, are her novels, which range from lengthy portraits of American life such as them, What I Lived For, We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and The Falls, to harrowing and brutal novellas including Black Water, Zombie, and Beasts. Her most recent work is the novel Mudwoman; forthcoming (among other books) is another novel, Carthage.
Frequent themes of Oates’s work include violence and the development of young lives: many of her works could be described as bildungsromans. Oates also writes frequently about the tensions of academic life (in novels such as Unholy Loves, Marya, and the recent Mudwoman), and she has even written several novels in a Gothic tradition, such as Bellefleur.
Oates has discussed her interest in “the phantasmagoria of personality,” and often disclaims autobiographical context in her fictional work (one exception that she’s pointed out is the appearance of her family and herself as a child in the novel Wonderland). However, Oates has written several works of a more personal nature, particularly the recent memoir A Widow’s Story, which discusses her life in the wake of the death of her husband Raymond Smith, with whom she founded the Ontario Review.
Here are more links discussing Oates’s life and work:
- Celestial Timepiece, a comprehensive site discussing Oates’s work
- Oates’s faculty homepage at Princeton
- Scholarly criticism of Oates’s work from the MLA International Bibliography
- “Joyce Carol Oates Goes Home Again,” an article from Smithsonian Magazine
- An in-depth 1978 interview with Oates from the Paris Review
- A recent article from Inside Higher Ed discussing Mudwoman‘s treatment of the role of women in academic life