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Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) - pseudonyms: Lauren Kelly, Rosamond Smith

 

Prolific American novelist, short-story writer, poet, critic and dramatist, who has explored in her works disappointments in love, women's roles, sexual passion, racial tensions, and violence in contemporary American society. Oates has been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her bengal cat is called Cleopatra.

"I did not learn to read until I was in the first grade, and six years old, though by this time I had already produced numerous "books" of a kind of drawing, coloring, and scribbling in tablets, in what I believed to be a convincing imitation of adults. My earliest fictional characters were zestfully if crudely drawn, upright chickens and cats engaged in various dramatic confrontations; the title of my first full half-length novel, on tablet paper, was The Cat House." (from The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, 2003)

Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 in Millersport, N.Y, into a bluecollar Catholic family. Her father, Frederic James Oates, was a tool-and-die designer at the Harrison Radiator Company. Erie County, where Oates grew up at her grandparents' farm, became later the fictitious 'Eden County', the scene of many of her novels. Both of her parents, Fredric and Carolina, were devoted readers. From first through fifth grades, she attended the same single-room schoolhouse her mother had attended twenty years before.

When Oates was fourteen she was given a typewriter by her grandmother. At the age of fifteen, she submitted her first novel to a publisher. It was rejected as too depressing for young readers. After attending junior and senior high school in Lockport, N.Y., Oates studied English at Syracuse University from 1956 to 1961. During this period, she wrote a novel each term. In 1961 she received her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin. In the same year she married Raymond J. Smith, a fellow English student, and moved with him to Beaumont, Texas, where he had a teaching post. He died of pneumonia in 2008. Her grief and loneliness Oates described in A Widow's Story (2011). "When you are not alone, you are shielded. You are shielded from the stark implacable unspeakable indescribable terror or aloneness. You are shielded from the knowledge of your own insignificance, your trash-soul." In 2009 Oates married Professor Charles Gross.

Between 1962 and 1967 Oates worked as a professor of English at the University of Detroit, the setting for several of her works. She taught then English at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, where she founded with her husband the Ontario Review in 1974.

In 1978 Oates moved to New Jersey and became a teacher at Princeton University. Her first book, By the North Gate (1963), a collection of stories, Oates wrote as she completed her B.A. at Syracuse University, where she also won the prestigious Mademoiselle fiction contest. Upon the Sweeping Flood (1966) brought her national attention and she was compared to William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. The Wheel of Love (1970) contains the often anthologized short stories 'Where are You Going, Where have You Been' and 'The Region of Ice'. Oates has also published non-fiction, essays and criticism, in several volumes. An enormously productive author, by 2007 her oeuvre consisted of 52 novels, 29 collections of short stories, 11 collections of essays, 7 children's books and 8 collections of poetry and plays. Oates lives an ordered life. "People think that I write quickly, but I actually don’t," she has said. She gets up early, works at her desk every day from 8 a.m. till 1:30 or 2 p.m., and then again in the evening for two or three hours.

Among her many awards is the 1970 National Book Award for them (1969), the last part of a trilogy. In 2004 Oates received the Fairfax Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts. Her later novels include Blonde (2000), an international bestseller about Marilyn Monroe, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a National Book Award finalist. Daddy Love (2013) is a dark story of child abduction, narrated from different perspectives. "Oates is a mind-reader who writes psychological horror stories about seriously disturbed minds, and it’s hard to tear your eyes away from her grimly detailed portrait of Daddy Love." (Marilyn Stasio, in The New York Times, January 4, 2013)

Sexual violence is a central theme in Oates's work. Rape: A Love Story (2003) starts in the aftermath a gang-rape; often her female characters are abused and tormented by men in various ways. When once asked why her writing is so violent, Oates remarked that the question is always sexist. "The serious writer, after all, bears witness." Oates seldom gives interviews while traveling on lecture tours.

Oates has written in several literary forms. She has also attempted to update the supernatural fiction and the Gothic genre. In 1996 she received the Bram Stoker Award for the novel Zombie (1995), a serial-killer horror story. Under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith, she has written mystery fiction. The pseudonym was a feminization of the name of Oates's husband. Wonderland from 1971 was built around Lewis Carroll's Alice stories. As a boxing fan, she published in 1987 a collection of essays entitled On Boxing.

Oates was one of the writers, who joined a protest against the PEN American Center in 2015 after the organization decided to honour the French magazine Charlie Hebdo with an award. 12 people were killed in January 2015 in a terrorist attack on the magazine in Paris. Charlie Hebdo has been long known for its satirical cartoons on Islam and other religions, celebrities and political leaders. Oates said that "PEN honors & defends 'freedom of expression' but not all 'expression' – it is selective. Not antisemitic, for instance. Seems reasonable."

For further reading: The Tragic Vision of Joyce Carol Oates by M. Grant (1978); Critical Essays on Joyce Carol Oates by Linda Wagner-Martin (1979); Joyce Carol Oates, ed. by Harold Bloom (1987); Understanding Joyce Carol Oates by Greg Johnson (1987); Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates by Lee Milazzo (1989); 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?': Joyce Carol Oates, ed. by Elaine Showalter (1994); Lavish Self-Divisions: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates by B. Daly (1996); Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates, by Greg Johnson (1998); Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, vol. 3, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); Joyce Carol Oates: Conversations, ed. by Greg Johnson (2006); Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists, edited by Michael Lackey (2014) 

Selected works:

  • By the North Gate, 1963
  • With Shuddering Fall, 1964
  • Upon the Sweeping Flood: And Other Stories, 1966
  • Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America, 1966
  • A Garden of Earthly Delights, 1967
  • Expensive People, 1968
    - Kalliita ihmisiä (suom. Paavo Lehtonen)
  • Them, 1969
  • Anonymous Sins: And Other Poems, 1969
  • The Wheel of Love, 1970
  • Cupid and Psyche, 1970
  • Love and Its Derangements, 1970
  • Wild Saturday: And Other Stories, 1970
  • Wonderland, 1971
  • Marriages and Infidelities, 1972
  • Do with Me What You Will, 1973
  • Miracle Play, 1974
  • Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature, 1972
  • The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence, 1973
  • The Goddess and Other Women, 1974
  • The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies, 1974
  • The Poisoned Kiss: And Other Stories from the Portuguese, 1975 (with Fernandes)
  • The Assassins: A Book of Hours, 1975
  • The Seduction: And Other Stories, 1975
  • The Fabulous Beasts, 1975
  • Crossing the Border: Fifteen Tales, 1976
  • The Childwold, 1976
  • The Triumph of the Spider Monkey, 1976
  • Night-Side: 18 Tales, 1977
  • Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money: Poems, 1978
  • All the Good People I've Left Behind, 1978
  • Son of the Morning, 1978
  • Unholy Loves, 1979
  • Cybele, 1979
  • Bellefleur, 1980
    - Bellefleur: sukuromaani (suom. Marja Toivio, 1981)
  • Three Plays, 1980
  • New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature, 1974
  • A Sentimental Education, 1981
  • Angel of Light, 1981
    - Valon enkeli (suom. Jussi Nousiainen, 1983)
  • Contraries, 1981
  • A Bloodsmoor Romance, 1982
  • Invisible Woman, 1982
  • Luxury of Sin, 1983
  • The Prifane Art, 1983
  • ed. First Person Singular: Writers on Their Craft, 1983
  • Mysteries of Winterthurn, 1984
  • Last Days, 1984
  • Solstice, 1984
  • Marya: A Life, 1986
  • Raven's Wing, 1986
  • You Must Remember This, 1987
  • The Time Traveler: Poems, 1987
  • On Boxing, 1987
    - Nyrkkeilystä (suomentanut Jarkko S. Tuusvuori, 2009)
  • Lives of the Twins, 1989 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • The Assignation, 1988
  • Woman Writer, 1988
  • American Appetites, 1989
  • Soul/Mate, 1989 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, 1990
  • I Lock My Door Upon Myself, 1990
  • Oates in Exile, 1990
  • Nemesis, 1990 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • Heat: And Other Stories, 1991
  • The Rise of Life On Earth, 1991
  • Twelve Plays, 1991
  • Demon: And other Tales, 1991
  • Black Water, 1992
  • Where Is Here?: Stories, 1992
  • Snake Eyes, 1992 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, 1993
  • What I Lived For, 1994
  • Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, 1994
  • Will You Always Love Me?: And Other Stories, 1994
  • The Perfectionist: And Other Plays, 1995
  • The Life of the Writer, the Life of the Career: Prolegomena to a Personal Ethics, 1995
  • George Bellows, 1995
  • You Can't Catch Me, 1995 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • Zombie, 1995
  • First Love, 1996
  • We Were the Mulvaneys, 1996
  • Tenderness: Poems, 1996
  • The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque, 1996
  • The Devil's Half Acre, 1997
  • Man Crazy, 1997
  • Double Delight, 1997 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • My Heart Laid Bare, 1998
  • Come Meet Muffin!, 1998
  • New Plays, 1998
  • Where I've Been, And Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose, 1999
  • Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon, 1999 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • Broke Heart Blues, 1999
  • Blonde, 2000
    - Blondi (suom. Kristiina Drews, 2001)
  • The Barrens, 2001 (as Rosamond Smith)
  • Middle-Age: A Romance, 2001
  • Beasts, 2001
  • Faithless: Tales of Transgression, 2001
  • Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, 2002
    - Syntipukki (suom. Nora Schuurman, 2002)
  • I'll Take You There, 2002
  • The Tattooed Girl, 2003
  • The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, 2003
  • Freaky Green Eyes, 2003
  • Rape: A Love Story, 2003
    - Kosto: rakkaustarina (suom. Kaijamari Sivill, 2010)  
  • Small Avalanches: And Other Stories, 2003
  • Where is Little Reynard, 2003
  • I Am No One You Know: Stories, 2004
  • The Falls, 2004
    - Putous (suom. Kaijamari Sivill, 2006)
  • Take Me, Take Me With You, 2004 (as Lauren Kelly)
  • Sexy, 2005
  • Mother, Missing, 2005
  • Uncensored: Views and Reviews, 2005
  • The Stolen Heart, 2005 (as Lauren Kelly)
  • The Female of the Species, 2006
  • Blood Mask, 2006 (as Lauren Kelly)
  • High Lonesome: Stories 1966-2006, 2007
  • The Gravedigger's Daughter, 2007
    - Haudankaivajan tytär (suom. Kaijamari Sivill, 2009)
  • The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense, 2007
  • The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982, 2007 (ed. by Greg Johnson)
  • My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike, 2008
    - Sisareni, rakkaani (suom. Kaijamari Sivill, 2012)
  • Dear Husband, 2009
  • Little Bird of Heaven, 2009
  • Rough Country: Essays and Reviews, 2010
  • Sourland: Stories, 2010
  • A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, 2011
  • The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares, 2011
  • Mudwoman: A Novel, 2012
  • Daddy Love, 2013
  • The Accursed, 2013
  • Carthage: A Novel, 2014
  • Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories, 2014
  • The Sacrifice: A Novel, 2015
  • Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense, 2015
  • The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age, 2015
  • The Man Without a Shadow, 2016


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