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Thread: Joyce Carol Oates

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    Culture slut geek the girl's Avatar
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    Joyce Carol Oates

    I thought it was time this brilliant author got a thread of her own. Whenever someone asks me "Who is your favourite author, and you can only pick one?" (I hate that!) I always answer Joyce Carol Oates. Her prose is stunning and throughout her MASSIVE back catalogue - we're talking more than THIRTY big fat novels, about twenty short story collections, a handful of novellas and several children's books and crime novels. I get exhausted just thinking about it - she always says more about America of today than most other contemporary American writers could ever manage. She has a particular talent for creating believable and moving female characters. Also, the majority of her works - especially her more recent ones - have a slightly menacing and bizarre feel that really appeals to the semi-Goth in me Like many others, I discovered her through [I]Blonde[/I and since then, I've done my best to catch up on her earlier works as well as keep up with her new books. I probably won't manage to read all her books until I'm well into my fifties, but I'm having a lot of fun trying! At the moment I'm reading one her earliest novels, Wonderland. It is just as impeccably written and intruiging as her more recent books, and has that sweeping, Great American Novel feel to it that is Oates' trademark; it portrays a man's life from the Depression well into the 1960s.

    Any other Oates fans here at FoRT? Come forward and revel with me in geekdom

    Like I've said, it's pretty darn near impossible to read her entire back catalogue, but here's a list of some of her work, most of which I've read and can wholeheartedly recommend.

    Novels

    them (1969)
    Wonderland (1971)
    Do With Me What You Will (1973)
    Bellefleur (1980)
    Marya: A Life (1986)
    You Must Remember This (1987)
    Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (1990)
    What I Lived For (1994)
    We Were the Mulvaneys - probably her best-known novel, thanks to Oprah. (1996)
    Blonde (2000)
    Middle Age: A Romance (2001)
    The Tattooed Girl (2003)
    The Falls (2005)

    Novellas

    Black Water (1992)
    Rape: A Love Story (2004)

    Novels of suspense as Rosamond Smith

    Lives of the Twins (1987)
    Soul / Mate (1989)
    Nemesis (1990)
    Snake Eyes (1992)
    You Can't Catch Me (1993)
    Double Delight (1997)
    Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon (1999)
    The Barrens (2001)

    Novels of suspense as Lauren Kelly (her new pseudonym. I've no idea why she changed her alias; everybody knows it's her anyway.)

    Take Me, Take Me With You (2005)
    "There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more" (Morrissey)

  2. #2
    Lah
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    Prolific but overrated, imo.

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    Bitten Critical's Avatar
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    I have several books by Oates in my "library," but I've never gotten around to them. Geek, based on the fact that I think you are a very well-read person and that we seem to have similar tastes, I'll pick one up and give it a go. The three Oates books I have are: Wonderland, them and Expensive People. Is there one of those that you would recommend in particular?
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

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    Culture slut geek the girl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Critical
    I have several books by Oates in my "library," but I've never gotten around to them. Geek, based on the fact that I think you are a very well-read person and that we seem to have similar tastes, I'll pick one up and give it a go. The three Oates books I have are: Wonderland, them and Expensive People. Is there one of those that you would recommend in particular?
    I'd have to say either them or Wonderland since I have yet to read Expensive People. All three are early works and lack the distinct Gothic feel of many of her more recent novels have, but they're definitely great books. them won the National Book Award back in the 1960's, by the way. Please let me know how you're getting along. A friendly warning though: while I clearly think she's brilliant, I have several friends who can't stand her. I never really understood why, but I do know that some people find her a bit overbearing. Hopefully, I'll make you into a fan, though If you like either of the books you mentioned, I strongly suggest you pick up Blonde. It is one of the best novels I've read in years; while it is fictional, Oates's portrait of Marilyn Monroe feels more real than most of the autobiographies out there. A very moving story about a troubled young woman who just happens to be one of the most famous movie stars ever.
    "There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more" (Morrissey)

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    Anarchist AJane's Avatar
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    Funny that Oprah picked Mulvaneys for her book club - I've read it and completely blanked out the entire story.

    I actually picked up both Mulvaneys and The Tattooed Girl because I loved American Appetites. I was disappointed with The Tattooed Girl, though. Have heard lots of good things about Blonde, but I keep putting off reading it - I'm not a fan of Marilyn and don't know if a novel about her would hold my interest.
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    Bitten Critical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AJane
    Funny that Oprah picked Mulvaneys for her book club - I've read it and completely blanked out the entire story.

    I actually picked up both Mulvaneys and The Tattooed Girl because I loved American Appetites. I was disappointed with The Tattooed Girl, though. Have heard lots of good things about Blonde, but I keep putting off reading it - I'm not a fan of Marilyn and don't know if a novel about her would hold my interest.
    Okay - I'm way too young for this level of forgetfulness! I've read We Were the Mulvaneys! It was several years ago, before Oprah singled it out. As I remember, I thought it was very good. AJane - this was the one about the very proper middle class family that basically implodes when the daughter is raped. Not exactly feel good reading, but it rang so true.

    Geek - I'll definitely put them or Wonderland on my "to be read" list
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

  7. #7
    Yoffy lifts a finger... fluff's Avatar
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    Mulvaney's is the first Oates book I ever read and I hated it.
    I think I made it about a third of the way through and was so utterly bored by it.
    It's really out me off reading anything else by her.
    I was really disappointed at the time, but perhaps I should give it another try.

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    Culture slut geek the girl's Avatar
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    I didn't love Mulvaneys either, fluff. I didn't hate it, but it's not as good as some of her other novels.
    "There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more" (Morrissey)

  9. #9
    Yoffy lifts a finger... fluff's Avatar
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    I think I'll give it another go when I've finished the book I'm reading.

    I have to admit I did buy it on Oprah's recommendation, she was just so damn enthusiastic and I ws looking for something to read.
    I don't really know what I was expecting, I guess the book seemed low-key in comparrison to her wild reaction to it.

  10. #10
    Nevermind Lotuslander's Avatar
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    I've read Blonde, and it was better than any Marilyn biography in capturing her essence. Even if your not a Marilyn fan, the book is beautiful, haunting and dark.

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