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Getting on

Joyce CarolOates, 12 January 1995

Colored People: A Memoir 
by Henry Louis Gates.
Viking, 216 pp., £16, January 1995, 0 670 85737 8
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... As in one of Escher’s visual paradoxes, where infinity opens up vertiginously within a single geometric figure, object and anti-object define each other, and ‘foreground’ and ‘background’ are made to shift according to one’s perspective, the highly combustible issue of race in America, and its consequences in terms of the academic-literary canon, depend almost entirely on one’s position ...

Soft-Speaking Tough Souls

Joyce CarolOates: Grace Paley, 16 April 1998

The Collected Stories of Grace Paley 
Virago, 398 pp., £12.99, January 1998, 1 86049 423 4Show More
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... How aptly named: Grace Paley. For ‘grace’ is perhaps the most accurate, if somewhat poetic, term to employ in speaking of this gifted writer who has concentrated on short, spare fiction through a career of nearly five decades. First published in 1959 with The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley immediately drew an audience of readers who were not only admiring but loving ...

You are the we of me

Joyce CarolOates: The Autobiography of Carson McCullers, 2 September 1999

Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers 
edited by Carlos Dews.
Wisconsin, 256 pp., £19.95, September 1999, 0 299 16440 3
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... The wedding was like a dream outside her power, or like a show unmanaged by her in which she was to have no part. The Member of the Wedding How to account for the vagaries of literary reputation? In the Forties and early Fifties, such disparate, talented young writers as Carson McCullers, Truman Capote and Flannery O’Connor were perceived as kindred; there was a highly publicised vogue of American Southern Gothic writing, abetted by photographs of the very camp Truman Capote reclining on a chaise-longue like a delicious dream of Oscar Wilde’s, and by lurid tales of the erratic, often inebriated behaviour of Carson McCullers, a literary prodigy to set beside Scott Fitzgerald in the previous generation ...

Enid’s Scars

Peter McDonald, 23 June 1988

You must remember this 
by Joyce CarolOates.
Macmillan, 436 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 333 46182 7
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A Case of Knives 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 266 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 7475 0074 6
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Burning your own 
by Glenn Patterson.
Chatto, 249 pp., £11.95, March 1988, 0 7011 3291 4
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... The title of Joyce CarolOates’s new novel is well-chosen, being itself both a fragment of popular culture (‘As time goes by’ seems to be lodged there pretty firmly by now) and an imperative which forces readers towards a confrontation with the very past to which it belongs ...

Popcorn and Stale Plush

Namara Smith: Joyce CarolOates in Motion, 10 February 2022

by Joyce CarolOates.
Fourth Estate, 365 pp., £16.99, August 2021, 978 0 00 849088 1
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... Is Joyce CarolOates​ a hack? For the best part of her six-decade career, there’s been a lingering suspicion that nobody who publishes as often as she does can have much worth saying. An aura of cheapness, or promiscuity, hangs over her work. Literary value is often synonymous with scarcity, and Oates has never made herself scarce ...

Trauma Style

Joanna Kavenna: Joyce CarolOates, 19 February 2004

The Tattooed Girl 
by Joyce CarolOates.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 00 717077 7
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... Joyce CarolOates is fascinated by the seedy corners of American life. Her recent novels are narrated by orphans, mutilated girls, the abused, the impoverished, celebrities destroyed by fame, children from families destroyed by rape. Oates’s books often open with a riddling exposition which implies a hidden trauma ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Myths of Marilyn, 8 July 2004

... turns out to be especially harsh about people making things up, especially if they happen to be Joyce CarolOates or Norman Mailer, fiction writers who have shown an interest in making up the life of Marilyn Monroe. One could go on all day like this, and people do, which is why Churchwell’s book turns out to be a ...

Wallacette the Rain Queen

Mark Lambert, 19 February 1987

The Beet Queen 
by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 338 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 241 12044 6
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Marya: A Life 
by Joyce CarolOates.
Cape, 310 pp., £10.95, January 1987, 0 224 02420 5
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The Lost Language of Cranes 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 319 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81290 0
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... she and we learned in literature classes – and, every so often, something else. In her new novel Joyce CarolOates appears to make use of some of her own background and history in forming her heroine’s life, but, rather puzzlingly, the thing doesn’t work. It tells of the experiences of Marya Stokes, an intelligent ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... their publishers, as sensitive. Not that any publisher would have tried that with Mary McCarthy. Joyce CarolOates, interviewed in 1976, takes the lack of a social tradition for the woman writer as a form of freedom, however inadvertently bestowed. ‘Since, being a woman, I can’t be taken altogether seriously by ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Dickens and Prince, 5 January 2023

... sooner, once we are accustomed to it and it begins relentlessly to accumulate?John Updike wrote of Joyce CarolOates that ‘after the first wave of stories and novels … crashed in and swept away a debris of praise and prizes, protective seawalls were built, and a sullen tide set in.’ New standards are ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... especially when the subject is a woman. In a review of a book about Jean Stafford in 1988, Joyce CarolOates declared her disgust with ‘pathography’, a narrative focused on dysfunction, breakdown, addiction and disaster, rather than on the mysterious process whereby artists spin their dirty straw into ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... rundown of Jonathan Franzen’s feud with Oprah Winfrey? Do the Feds keep track of how many words Joyce CarolOates writes in a day? Do they monitor Karl Ove Knausgaard’s border crossings? Did they know who Elena Ferrante was before the editors of the New York Review of Books did? Or how much Martin Amis drinks these ...

Dye the Steak Blue

Lidija Haas: Shirley Jackson, 19 August 2010

Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories 
edited by Joyce CarolOates.
Library of America, 827 pp., $35, May 2010, 978 1 59853 072 8
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... chance!’ Jackson, whose best work has now appeared in a Library of America volume edited by Joyce CarolOates, was born in San Francisco in December 1916, though she liked to shed three years. Her father, Leslie, whose English family had lost their money, changed their name and emigrated after a mysterious ...

Dirty Little Secret

Fredric Jameson: The Programme Era, 22 November 2012

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 466 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 0 674 06209 2
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... though the story wends its way from Thomas Wolfe through Nabokov and John Barth, Philip Roth and Joyce CarolOates, all the way to Raymond Carver), nor those of traditional aesthetics and literary criticism, which raise issues of value and try to define true art as this rather than that. The dialectical problems come ...

Gender Distress

Elaine Showalter, 9 May 1996

In the Cut 
by Susanna Moore.
Picador, 180 pp., £12.99, April 1996, 0 330 34452 8
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The End of Alice 
by A.M. Homes.
Scribner, 271 pp., $22, March 1996, 0 684 81528 1
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... woman who gets singled out for murder in slasher films, from Psycho to Silence of the Lambs. Carol Clover, in a 1987 essay on gender issues in slasher movies, analyzed the conventions and taboos that have made these horror films about psychokillers so successful, and which now seem to have moved from pulp cinema to feminist literary fiction. According to ...

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