Joyce Carol Oates

Shortly after moving to Princeton, New Jersey in 1984, Joyce Carol Oates began drafting a story based on the Victorian-era history of the area. After setting the manuscript aside for 30 years, Oates has finished what became a gothic thriller, “The Accursed.” The novel combines portrayals of historical figures like Upton Sinclair and Woodrow Wilson with surreal elements — including vampires, demons and ghosts. We talk to the celebrated author about her new novel and prolific career.

Interview Highlights

Joyce Carol Oates, author and professor in the humanities with the Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University; she is teaching at UC Berkeley during the Spring, 2013 semester

  • thucy

    I loved Ms. Oates’ “On Boxing” which is so succinct and yet holds so many universes of perpectives which one would not really associate with the then-middle-aged white female writer and academic who wrote it.

    Such empathy for people different from her! And it was possibly not really a popular subject given her audience?

    Was Oates’ “On Boxing” an overlooked landmark in feminist writing? For a white female academic to write so thoughtfully about athletes who were always male (and almost always poor and minorities) sure seemed like a big deal, or should have been. At the time, it seems like most feminists (of any color) were mainly exploring female characters and subjects.

    The way she tied in the significance of Joe Louis to the black community in one anecdote! I’d read many books on boxers, all by men, but no one cracked the story and got at the meat as concisely as Oates.

    • thucy

      btw, I hope you tell Ms. Oates that you had Tyson on last week, and he challenged Barry McGuigan’s own claim that the reason he (McGuigan) is a boxer is because “I can’t write. I can’t tell stories.”

      That McGuigan quote came straight out of Oates’ “On Boxing.” Had I not been given Ms. Oates’ book as a young student, I would not have learned about McGuigan’s political significance amid “the troubles”, and the political significance of so many other boxers.

  • Judy

    Ms. Oates wrote a short story that I read fairly recently in the New Yorker about a young girl whose mother was probably killed by her husband, the father of the girl and I was very shocked by the callous treatment she received by the police/social workers. This story should be required reading for police/social workers dealing with children and adolescents.

  • Guest

    There is another less superstitious (and sensational) term for the “consequences” of actions about which Ms. Oates spoke: memory. One would be remiss, as well, not to point out that kind actions, unthinking actions, all actions…have consequences. I tend to experience much more pain for things which are meant to be helpful or kind because no good deed goes unpunished. Ms. Oates is brilliant, but I’m disappointed to hear her fetishize the experience of guilt. When one ascribes superstitious notions like a “curse” to slavery, even metaphorically, one inoculates a real historical injustice from genuine ethical scrutiny.

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