Tag Archives: Joyce Carol Oates

Quotable Monday: Widowhood – Joyce Carol Oates

Suttee, 1826

I’m not a widow, but I re-stumbled across the below paragraph from the story “Probate” by Joyce Carol Oates and cannot get over how beautifully written and poignant an excerpt it is.  Her collection of short stories, Sourland, is teeming with memorably beautiful and painful quotes, but, for some reason, this one always leaps out at me.

The widow’s mistake had been, her husband had been her life. She was a tree whose roots had become entwined with the roots of an adjacent tree, a seemingly taller and stronger tree, and these roots had become entwined inextricably. To free the living tree from the dead tree would require an act of violence that would damage the living tree. It would require an act of imagination. Easier to imagine suttee. Easier to imagine swallowing handfuls of barbiturates, old painkiller medications in the medicine cabinet. I can’t do this. I can’t be expected to do this. I am not strong enough.

Joyce Carol Oates, “Probate” from her short story collection, Sourland

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Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates

Title: Little Bird of Heaven
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Length: 448 pages
A little difficult to digest, at times, but, overall – an excellent read. 

As should be rather clear by now, I’m a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates.  Her stories are raw, brimming with emotion, and, more often than not, the types of stories that will infiltrate your dreams and haunt you for hours, days, or, sometimes, weeks after you put the book down.  These types of stories aren’t for everyone, but they’ve always been my cup of tea.

This latest choice, however, proved to be a little difficult for me to power through at times.  This wasn’t due to any flaw in her story or writing, but more-so because my brain has been overloaded by other stuff that I didn’t feel fully energized to pick up all that she was throwing down.  And, oh boy, does she throw it down….

Little Bird of Heaven is set in a fictitious town in New York – small, working-class, and a little rough around the edges.  The narrative is broken out into sections – two by Krista Diehl and one by Aaron Kruller.  The characters are linked by a gruesome crime – the murder of Aaron’s mother, Zoe Kruller, a local singer who dreams of making it big and getting far away from this town.

Krista’s father, Eddy, is a prime suspect in the case, due to his affair with Zoe and the fact that he is the last person known to see her alive.  The other prime suspect is Aaron’s father, known to have a jealous and violent streak to him.  The reader watches the lives of, well, everyone, fall apart.  Love blossoms, love dies.  Some are driven to succeed and others are weighed down by the past, burying their woes in drugs and alcohol.

As in all of her novels, Oates paints a poignant, beautiful, and treacherous picture of the fragility of life and humanity.  She wades far out into the muck and manages to find and produce something beautiful.

Check out Little Bird of Heaven on the HarperCollins Page.

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Quotable Monday: Love and Longing

How mysterious it is, to be in love.  For you can be in love with one who knows nothing of you.  Perhaps our greatest happiness springs from such longings — being in love with someone who is oblivious of you.

Joyce Carol Oates, Little Bird of Heaven

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Author Spotlight: Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates (June 16, 1938) is nothing short of amazing.  Highly prolific (she has published OVER 50 books since 1969), she has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including:

  • National Book Award winner for Them in 1970
  • PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction
  • Winner of the 2005 Prix Femina Etranger for The Falls
  • Finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Blonde
  • She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities @ Princeton University
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (since 1973)
  • 2003 recipient of the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature
  • Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement
  • 2006 recipient of the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2009 recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate of Arts awarded by the University of Pennsylvania
  • 2012 recipient of the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement from Oregon State University
 
Her writing is often disturbing, displaying some of the horror in our modern society as well as the trials and tribulations that everyday people struggle with.  Her writing is always beautiful and unique.  Oates successfully captures the voice of her characters, seamlessly slipping into their mannerisms, dialects, and psyches.
 
In addition to her novels, Oates has also published under two pseudonyms (Rosalind Smith and Lauren Kelly), essays, poetry, drama, fiction for young adults, as well as children’s books.  I feel as though nothing that I can manage to write here will do justice to her skill and career.  As someone who admires her deeply, all that I can hope for is that by highlighting her here, perhaps someone else will try out one of her novels.
 
Check out her page on the HarperCollins website for more information on upcoming releases.  Or the JCO official page via the University of San Francisco, also an excellent reference for a full bibliography.  This website also has a blog – Crossing the Border.
 
Joyce Carol Oates reads The Knife:
 

 

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