Joyce Carol Oates
Literature and Life
As mentioned before at the beginning of this series, the most often advice a would-be writer hears as “Read”. I know of no other author who believes this as much as today’s featured writer, Joyce Carol Oates. Reading is not only for learning the craft of writing, in her opinion; it is a way of life.
Oates taught at Princeton for thirty-six years, retiring in 2014 and published her latest book last year, “Dis Mem Ber”. She grew up in New York State, attending the same one-room schoolhouse that her mother had attended. She became interested in reading at an early age and remembers her grandmother giving her a gift of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as “the great treasure of my childhood, and the most profound literary influence of my life. This was love at first sight!” In 1980, Oates founded Ontario Review Books, an independent publishing house, with her husband, Raymond J. Smith, a professor of 18th century literature. Oates has described their partnership as “a marriage of like minds — both my husband and I are so interested in literature and we read the same books; he’ll be reading a book and then I’ll read it — we trade and we talk about our reading at meal times…”
In an interview given in 2013 with ‘The Boston Globe’, Oates revealed that Dostoevsky was one of her favorite authors. When asked her all-time favorite book, she replied: “I would say Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, which had an enormous effect on me. I think young people today might not realize how readable that novel is. The other book I worry no one reads anymore is James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. It’s not easy, but every page is wonderful and repays the effort.”
For the writer, Joyce Carol Oates offers this advice: “Novels begin, not on the page, but in meditation and daydreaming – in thinking, not writing. For the reader, she advices: “read widely, and without apology. Read what you want to read, not what someone tells you you should read.” For all of us, she offers this pearl of wisdom: “All that matters in life is forging deep ties of love and family and friends. Writing and reading come later.”