No, no, I didn’t get to interview her (darn!). Goodreads recently posted a great ten questions interview with Joyce Carol Oates, which I was excited to read. The first question was my favorite:
Goodreads: You have earned a place among the great American writers of the last century. Do you feel that your writing is distinctly American?
Joyce Carol Oates: I consider myself a thoroughly American writer in the tradition of the great psychological realists—Melville, Hawthorne, Henry James—who nonetheless delve into the mythic and emblematic. Some of my “gothic” fiction is akin to Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote of the nightmare side of America while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge anything remotely historical, timely, or local in his fiction. Stendhal said famously of the novel that it is a kind of “mirror moving along a roadway”—this is true for my writing, but only partly true—I am obviously as much interested in the inner, unfathomable life of the individual as in his or her social identity.
I like thinking about Oates as a “psychological realist” that also dives into the “mythic and emblematic” — that’s a much more sophisticated way of describing Oates’ work than I’ve used.
In my review of The Gravedigger’s Daughter, I mentioned that reading Oates is sort of like a Lifetime movie — she delves into dark stories that have a sort of sensational plot. What makes her awesome is that she spins out her characters in such a way that the story grows much more epic than it starts. The other books I’ve read, We Were the Mulvaney’s and The Falls, both have some of those elements.
Have you read any Joyce Carol Oates? Do you have a favorite book? What do you think of Oates’ description of her own writing?