Monday, November 24, 2008

Joyce Carol Oates, creative writer and critic

Excerpt from "Joyce Carol Oates on productivity: 'I love to write' "
By Robert Pincus
November 23, 2008 San Diego Union Tribune (c)

I love to write,” she stated. “It's a fascinating experience to deal with language and to tell stories involving people who are, for me at least, fascinating.”

Oates declined to be interviewed by telephone, preferring to answer questions by e-mail.

“There have been 'prolific' writers and creative artists through the centuries – most of them men, as the work of women tends not to survive in quite the way that the work of men has. We can assume that the products of a highly energetic imagination like Mozart or Picasso are natural to them, and not unnatural or freakish; the same is perhaps true for others of us, less 'immortal.' I don't truly think of myself as a 'workaholic' – in fact, I don't work nearly as much as I would like to.”

...Oates' fiction is provocative, often intensely so. She tends to veer toward disturbing, dysfunctional dimensions of our culture: a family deeply traumatized by a crime (“We Were the Mulvaneys”), a life that disintegrates in the face of fame and exploitation (“Blonde”) and, in her most recent novel, the mysterious murder of a 6-year-old ice-skating champion that destroys the rest of her family (“My Sister, My Love”).

Two of these books are rooted in actual lives: “Blonde,” a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001, takes up the biography of Marilyn Monroe. “My Sister, My Love” echoes the story of JonBenet Ramsey.

This intersection of history, events and fiction has been a recurring subject for Oates, whose 1992 novella “Black Water” caused a stir because its tale closely paralleled that of the car crash on Chappaquiddick Island with Ted Kennedy at the wheel that resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

“This approach is of particular interest to me,” she stated, “when it allows the writer to explore the specific and historical, as if it were emblematic, representative and even, in some ways, prophetic....