Joyce Carol Oates is one of most prolific and versatile contemporary writer in the United States of America. She has produced so much work and on various subjects, but most of which focus majorly on intellectual, sexual and spiritual decline of modern America society.
Joyce Carol Oates, an acclaimed writer popularly known for novels such as ‘The Falls’, ‘A Garden of Earthly Delights’ and ‘them’ that won the National Book Award, was born on the 16th of June 1938, in Lockport, New York. Joyce dad, Fredrick James Oates was a tool designer, while her mum, Caroline was a homemaker or housewife of Hungarian descent. Currently aged 76 years, she is the oldest of Caroline and Frederic Oates’s three children.
Her family lived in a working-class family community on a farm in Millersport, New York owned by Caroline’s parents. She loved to read and read a lot for that matter. Even before she could learn to write, she’d started telling stories by drawing pictures. Though life was sometimes tough, her writing skills and love for literature slowly developed.
At age 15, in 1953, Joyce wrote her first and foremost novel, though the publishers rejected it on the basis that the subject matter that concerned the rehabilitation of a drug addict (restoring to a productive state) too depressing for the teenage audiences. Upon finishing her high school education, she won a scholarship to join the Syracuse University, where she further developed her writing skills.
She studied English at the university and prior to her senior year (at 19 years of age), she received an award for being a co-winner of a Mademoiselle Magazine sponsored fiction contest known as ‘college short story’. In 1960, she graduated from the university on top of her class, after which she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she received her M.A. It was here that she also met an English professor called Raymond Joseph Smith and got married in 1961.
Writing and Teaching
In 1961, after receiving her master’s degree and beginning her Ph.D. in English at Rice University, Joyce Oates came across one of her stories in Foley’s collection of Best American Short Stories. It was then that she decided to launch her writing career (become a full-time writer) and published her first book, a collection of short stories in 1963 known as By the North Gate.
Joyce Oates also lectured at the State University of Detroit from 1961 to 1967, after which she relocated to Canada with her husband to teach at Windsor University. In 1974, they established the Ontario Review publication. In 1977 after leaving Windsor University, she became a writer-in-residence and later on a professor as the Princeton University in New Jersey.
In 1964, Joyce Oates’s published her foremost novel, ‘With Shuddering Fall’, at the age of 26 that showed her interest in violence and evil in the romantic story between a 30 year old stock car driver and a teenage girl, which ends tragically with an accident that claims his life. Joyce’s best-recognized early novels form a three-volume work or trilogy in simple terms, exploring three different sections of the American society. The foremost, ‘A Garden of Earthly Delights’ published in 1967, narrates the story of a migrant worker daughter who marries a rich farmer so as to provide for her son born out of wedlock. The woman’s life is, however, destroyed when the child kills his step-father and then commits suicide.
Oates’s second novel ‘In Expensive People’ was published in 1967. It exposes the lives of people living in the outskirts whose concern on material comforts shows the vacuum of their lives. The last volume, ‘them’, a fiction book was published in 1969 and won the National Book Award. It describes the suffering and violence suffering endured by 3 generations of an urban-dwelling family located in Detroit, Michigan. Joyce’s experiences as a lecturer in Detroit in the early 1960s added to her understanding of the city and her social issues.
Joyce Oates’s 1970s novels explore characters involved in a number of American professional as well as cultural institutions whilst adding tragic features. ‘Wonderland’, published in 1971 narrates a story of a brilliant doctor who’s unable to establish a fulfilling home life. On the other hand, ‘Do With Me What You Will’ published in 1973 narrates a young attorney life honored by his friends for his dedication to social work. Oates’s The Assassins: A Book of Hours published in 1975 focuses on the impacts of the assassination of a prominent politician on his two brothers and more so, the wife. ‘Son of the Morning’, published in 1978 narrates the rise & fall of a minister whose faith is tested and strengthened by a number of happenings in his life. Lastly, ‘Unholy Loves’ published in 1979 focuses on the lives of some teachers at a small college in New York.
In the early 1980s, Joyce Oates published a number of novels based on publications by nineteenth-century authors. The foremost was ‘A Bloodsmoor Romance’ published in 1982. It’s a story of 5 maiden sisters who lived in Pennsylvania State in the late 1800s. The novel was influenced by Charlotte Bronte 1816 to 1855 writings and Emily Brontë 1818 to1848 writings. In ‘The Mysteries of Winterthur’ published in 1984, Joyce borrowed heavily from Edgar Allan Poe 1809 to 1849 works. While several critics dismissed these publications, others, citing Joyce Oates’s proficient description of evil, upheld that they were major achievements in literature.
Throughout her writing career, Joyce has distributed her energies amongst various projects simultaneously. Her ‘On Boxing’, book-length essay published in 1987 resulted in more than one appearance mentioning on a televised boxing bout. Almost simultaneously, she submitted a mystery novel under a pseudonym to a publisher and had the delight of having it accepted. She published the work ‘Lives of the Twins’ under the title Rosamond Smith her reasons being she wanted a fresh reading and to escape from her own identity. Although she used the pseudonym repeatedly on numerous other books, she went back to using her original name on her ‘My Heart Laid Bare’ publication, wherein she explores morality during the 1920s.
Other forms of Oates’s works also address human’s darker sides. Most critics feel her short fiction, for which she’s received the O. Henry Special Award twice for Continuing Achievement, best show her main themes. Collections such as the 1974 publication ‘By the North Gate; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America’; 1980 publication ‘The Lamb of Abyssalia)’; and the 1986 publication ‘Raven’s Wing’ has pieces that emphasis on abusive and violent relationships between men & women.
Some of Oates’s later publications include the 1990 ‘Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart’ where she returns to her familiar themes of violence and race, the 1992 ‘Black Water’, an narration of a catastrophic encounter between a young woman and a powerful U.S. senator at a party, and the 1993 ‘Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang’, which narrates the destructive doings of a gang of teenage girls, as well as several published and produced plays in the 1990s.
Oates published her twenty-ninth novel in 1999 called ‘Broke Heart Blues’. Her other publications included ‘Blonde’ (2000), based on Marilyn Monroe (an actress) life. It was a National Book Award finalist for fiction. Also published include ‘Getting to Know You’ (June 2000), and released a film based on her ‘Heat’ short story collection of 1992. In 2000, she published ‘Beast’ a novella and ‘Middle Age: A Romance’, a novel, which were her edited version of ‘The Best American Essays of the Century’ collection’.
Raymond Smith, Joyce Oates’s husband died in 2008 of pneumonia complications. She reflected on the time they spent together, his death as well as the aftermath in ‘A Widow’s Story’, her 2011 memoir.Book Series In Order » Authors » Joyce Carol Oates