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The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982 Hardcover – October 2, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0641995113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061227981
  • ASIN: 0061227986
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Writing is... a drug, sweet, irresistible, and exhausting, writes Oates in this fascinating and significant record of an artist's life. She was 34 when she began this experiment in consciousness, which follows the gestation and writing of many of her most important works. Oates, readers come to realize, is intensely disciplined, exquisitely sensitive, unflaggingly—almost morbidly—introspective, concerned with philosophical issues, attuned to mysticism and acutely responsive to the natural world. Although she abhors being described as prolific, she writes daily, with feverish energy; she herself uses the word obsessed. If a day or two passes when she isn't writing, she feels profound worthlessness. Teaching, she reveals, is a vital component of her well-being, although it often leaves her exhausted. The journal records her relationships with contemporary authors, including Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, John Updike, Gail Godwin, Stanley Elkin, John Gardner and Donald Barthelme. She is candid about her intensely intimate marriage to Raymond Smith, her lack of maternal instinct and the hours she spends at the piano, an obsession almost equal to her writing. Overall, this journal immerses the reader in a complex, searching, imaginative personality—an artist who continues to refine her search for literary expression. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Oct. 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Already famous as a provocative, category-defying writer three decades ago, Oates began keeping a journal, which she referred to as "an experiment in consciousness," in the wake of a "mystical experience." Accordingly, the mysterious way stories and novels come to her is an underlying theme in this exceptionally lucid and affecting chronicle. Johnson, Oates' biographer (Invisible Writer, 1998), has edited with sensitivity entries from the now mammoth journal's first decade. Oates writes about her loving marriage to Raymond Smith, her heart condition, her passion for teaching, and the evolution of her writing process. In 1975, she notes that she wouldn't want to be known as prolific, already sensing the negative response to her volcanic creativity. Few living writers fascinate readers as Oates does, and this generous volume is rich in literary and personal revelations, including Oates' confession of her need to write about her family's hidden past, which culminated, 25 years later, in a tour de force, The Gravedigger's Daughter (2007). The line that best conveys the essence of this American master? "I feel so much." Seaman, Donna

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Deanna Northrup on January 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an intimate peek at the personal musings of an amazingly talented and prolific writer. It closely follows her career moves and family life for ten years with forays into her childhood and school years. It is a great privilege to witness the inspiration and thought processing of one of the great writers of our time about the dozens of books she worked on during that decade in which she was driven to produce continuously to prove her worth to herself, striving for perfection while fearing it was unattainable.
Embarrassed by her prolificacy after being criticized for it, Oates dives into other interests that happen along (piano lessons, playwriting, book reviews, etc.) to try to distract herself from her incessant writing. "My image is of someone obsessively writing and producing and publishing feverishly..." (p.99). She wants very much to write more slowly, to be more "normal," but once she gets going on an idea she is unable to pace herself. "...Notes on "Bellefleur." More from Raphael's point of view. But slowly. Slowly. I want to take months, years, with this..." (p.263). But despite her desire to write this 592 page novel slowly, her first draft would be completed in eight months and the revision completed in another month and a half.
By the time I reached the middle of the book I was fairly certain of her obsessive/compulsive tendency. Her urge/need to write has a stranglehold on her mind, except when she is obsessing on something else (like music). The hunger - so common in her early characters - is nowhere to be found in the Oates of the journal. What I do find is a marked lack of interest in food. Maybe the physical hunger and cravings for food, with which she endows her characters, is her way of exploring these emotions and feelings to find out what she is missing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By BARBARA GERSHENABUM on December 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover

People write journals for different reasons which are usually not created for public consumption; at least not while the writer is still alive. Nevertheless, this phenomenon has been known to happen and THE JOURNAL OF JOYCE CAROL OATES 1973-1982 is one such book. Oates is considered the most prolific American writer to come out of the twentieth century and move seamlessly into the twenty-first. If nothing else, this journal humanizes her, which offers fans and readers further understanding of the woman, the writer, her love of teaching and the body of work.

In "A Note on the Text" editor Greg Johnson explains why the ten years between 1973 and 1982 make up the entries chosen to create "THE JOURNAL OF JOYCE CAROL OATES: the magnitude of Oates's "4,000 single-spaced typewritten pages" is too much of a project for an editor to complete in a timely fashion. With this in mind he chose one year of "the uniformly high quality ... the journal entries ... [which he] intended to provide an accurate view of Oates's primary concerns" at that time in her writing career. These pieces "focus on her work, her writing process, and philosophical concerns." However some of her very personal experiences and interactions with family, friends, colleagues and students have made their way into this truncated version of her journal.

In her Introduction Oates tells readers that she actually began to keep a journal from 1971-1972 when she was in London and feeling somewhat homesick. " ... This journal seemed to me at the start a haphazard and temporary comfort of sorts, that would not last beyond [that particular time,] yet, astonishingly, ...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Verita VINE VOICE on October 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some great insights into writing and creativity here, mingled with mundane concerns that sometimes give insight into Oates herself, who is occasionally neurotic. I read it also to see if it shed light on her amazing creativity. It does, a bit, tho nothing is going to tell you where she gets her energy, I suppose. She's written so many books. As journals go, I gave it 4 stars, very much recommended if you like reading writers' journals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Knowledge Contagion on November 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"I would write constantly and would be what is known as 'prolific.' Which, of course, I wouldn't want." (pg. 74) I couldn't help but get a chuckle out of this because it is mindboggling the amount she produced during the decade this journal represents. I lost count, but she writes at least 6 or 7 novels, a couple of which weren't even published because of the "logjam" of manuscripts that her publisher had. And of course in between, she is writing stories, reviews, poetry and letters, in addition to the time and energy she put into her teaching, piano, and socializing. I also chuckled a bit when I read "Certainly there must be something 'queer,' there is something demonstrably 'queer,' about anyone who has written as much as I have ... and on the subjects I have chosen. This is a conclusion I wouldn't seriously challenge ... if I were someone else, someone at a distance." (pg. 380).

(I don't usually quote from books I review ... but the main reason I choose to do so now is because one reason it took me a while to take this off of the shelf and read it is that I was afraid it would be like some of her writings that I wasn't fond of. I was very happy to realize how consistent her journaling voice is and found that it was difficult to put down because of that.)

She writes on page 135: "In glancing through another's diary or journal one cannot help but be struck by the often mundane quality of the entries." A few pages later: "So a journal by its very nature is not representative of its author's life. It represents its author's thoughts - the process of thinking itself" ['thoughts' and 'thinking' are underlined] (pg. 138). And this pretty much sums up the journal's content.
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