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Joyce Carol Oates

Oates in 2006.
Born 16 June 1938 (1938-06-16) (age 71)
Lockport, New York
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, literary critic, professor, editor
Nationality American
Period 1963-present
Notable award(s) 1967 O. Henry Award
1973 O. Henry Award
1970 National Book Award

Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) is an American author. Oates published her first book in 1963 and has since published over fifty novels, as well as many volumes of short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Her novel them (1969) won the National Book Award, and her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. With a reputation for prolificity, Oates has been one of the leading American novelists since the 1960s.

As of 2008, Oates is the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professor in the Humanities with the Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University, where she has taught since 1978.[2]

Oates has also written under the pseudonyms "Rosamond Smith" and "Lauren Kelly".

Contents

Biography

Early life and education

Oates was born in Lockport, New York to Rita Oates, a homemaker, and Frederic Oates, a tool and die designer.[3] She was raised Catholic, and is now an atheist.[4] Oates grew up in the working-class farming community of Millersport, New York,[5] and characterized hers as "a happy, close-knit and unextraordinary family for our time, place and economic status".[3] Her paternal grandmother, Blanche Woodside, lived with the family and was "very close" to Joyce.[5] After Blanche's death, Joyce learned that Blanche's father had killed himself and Blanche had subsequently concealed her Jewish heritage; Oates eventually drew on aspects of her grandmother's life in writing the 2007 novel The Gravedigger's Daughter.[5] A brother, Fred Junior, was born in 1943, and a sister, Lynn Ann, who is severely autistic, was born in 1956.[3]

At the beginning of her education, Oates attended the same one-room school her mother attended as a child.[3] She became interested in reading at an early age, and remembers Blanche's gift of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as "the great treasure of my childhood, and the most profound literary influence of my life. This was love at first sight!"[6] In her early teens, she devoured the writing of William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, Charlotte Brontë, and Emily Brontë, whose "influences remain very deep".[7] Oates began writing at the age of 14, when Blanche gave her a typewriter.[5] Oates later transferred to several bigger, suburban schools,[3] and graduated from Williamsville South High School in 1956, where she worked for her high school newspaper.[citation needed] She was the first in her family to complete high school.[3]

Oates won a scholarship to attend Syracuse University, where she joined Phi Mu, a financially draining experience she later regretted.[8] Oates found Syracuse "a very exciting place academically and intellectually", and trained herself by "writing novel after novel and always throwing them out when I completed them."[9] It was not until this point that Oates began reading the work of D. H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka, though, she noted, "these influences are still quite strong, pervasive."[7] At the age of nineteen, she won the "college short story" contest sponsored by Mademoiselle. Oates graduated Syracuse as valedictorian in 1960, and received her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1961.

Literary career

Oates published her first novel, With Shuddering Fall (1964), when she was twenty-six years old. In 1966, she published "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", a short story dedicated to Bob Dylan and written after listening to his song "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."[10] The story is loosely based on the serial killer Charles Schmid, also known as "The Pied Piper of Tucson".[11] The story was frequently anthologized and was adapted into the 1985 film Smooth Talk, starring Laura Dern. In 2008, Oates said that of all her published work, she is most noted for "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?".[12]

Oates's novel them (1969) received the National Book Award in 1970. Since then she has published an average of two books a year. Frequent topics in her work include rural poverty, sexual abuse, class tensions, desire for power, female childhood and adolescence, and occasionally the supernatural. Violence is a constant in her work, even leading Oates to have written an essay in response to the question, "Why Is Your Writing So Violent?" She is a fan of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, describing Plath's sole novel The Bell Jar as a "near perfect work of art"; but though Oates has often been compared to Plath, she disavows Plath's romanticism about suicide and among her characters, she favors cunning, hardy survivors, both women and men.[citation needed] Oates' concern with violence and other traditionally masculine topics has won her the respect of such male authors as Norman Mailer. In the early 1980s, Oates began writing stories in the gothic and horror genres; in her foray into these genres, Oates said she was "deeply influenced" by Kafka and felt "a writerly kinship" with James Joyce.[13] She gained much attention for her book-length essay On Boxing (1987).[citation needed]

In 1996, Oates published We Were the Mulvaneys, a novel following the disintegration of an American family, which became a best-seller after being selected by Oprah's Book Club in 2001.[12] In the 1990s and early 2000s, Oates wrote several books, mostly mystery novels, under the pen names "Rosamond Smith" and "Lauren Kelly."

For more than twenty-five years, Oates has been rumored to be a "favorite" to win the Nobel Prize in Literature by oddsmakers and critics.[14] Her papers, held at Syracuse University, include seventeen unpublished short stories and four unpublished or unfinished novellas. Oates has said that most of her early unpublished work was "cheerfully thrown away."[15]

Teaching career

Oates taught in Beaumont, Texas for a year before moving to Detroit in 1962, where she began teaching at the University of Detroit. Influenced by the Vietnam war, the 1967 Detroit race riots, and a job offer, in 1968 Oates moved with her husband to teaching positions at the University of Windsor, Canada.[3] In 1978, she moved to Princeton and began teaching at Princeton University.

In 1995, Princeton undergraduate Jonathan Safran Foer took an introductory writing course with Oates,[16] who took an interest in Foer's writing, telling him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy".[17] Foer later recalled that "she was the first person to ever make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that."[17] Oates served as the advisor to Foer's senior thesis, an early version of his novel Everything Is Illuminated, which was published to wide acclaim in 1999.[16]

Personal life

While studying at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Oates met Raymond J. Smith, a fellow graduate student, whom she married in 1961.[5] Smith became a professor of 18th-century literature, and later an editor and publisher. Together the couple founded The Ontario Review, a literary magazine, in 1974, on which Oates served as associate editor.[18] In 1980, Oates and Smith founded Ontario Review Books, an independent publishing house. In 2004, Oates described the partnership as "a marriage of like minds—both my husband and I are so interested in literature and we read the same books; he'll be reading a book and then I'll read it—we trade and we talk about our reading at meal times[...]it's a very collaborative and imaginative marriage".[3] Smith died of complications from pneumonia on February 18, 2008.[18] In April 2008, Oates wrote to an interviewer, "Since my husband's unexpected death, I really have very little energy[...]My marriage—my love for my husband—seems to have come first in my life, rather than my writing. Set beside his death, the future of my writing scarcely interests me at the moment."[19] In early 2009 Oates became engaged to, and married, Professor Charles Gross of the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Institute at Princeton.[20]

Oates is devoted to running, and has written that, "[i]deally, the runner who's a writer is running through the land- and cityscapes of her fiction, like a ghost in a real setting."[21] While running, Oates mentally envisions scenes in her novels and works out structural problems in already-written drafts; she formulated the germ of her novel You Must Remember This (1987) while running, when she "glanced up and saw the ruins of a railroad bridge", which reminded her of "a mythical upstate New York city in the right place".[21]

In 1973, Oates began keeping a detailed journal documenting her personal and literary life; it eventually grew to "more than 4,000 single-spaced typewritten pages".[22] In 2008, Oates said she had "moved away from keeping a formal journal" and instead preserves copies of her e-mails.[19] Oates is a member of the Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She is also a member of Mensa.[23]

Style and themes

From her first novel With Shuddering Fall in 1964, up to Kindred Passions in 1987, Oates built up a literary corpus that mixes Gothic estrangement with high social observation. Her works contain the typical elements of this type of tale: unconscious forces, seduction, incest, violence, and rape, sometimes to the point of sensationalism. She has written in a variety of genres, eras and landscapes—thus, she has works settled in a Faulkner-like Eden County, an imaginary area of upstate New York; in academia; in the Detroit slums and the Pennsylvania backwoods. But her works are not mere renderings of unusual experiences in far away places, both in space and time: novels such as A Bloodsmoor Romance, The Mysteries of Wintherthurn and Kindred Passions contain strong feminist overtones and use of the Gothic device to explore the ambiguities of gender and the sexual bases of fantasy.

Prolificacy

Oates writes in longhand,[24] working from "8 till 1 every day, then again for two or three hours in the evening."[14] Her subsequent prolificacy has become one of her best-known attributes; The New York Times wrote in 1989 that Oates's "name is synonymous with productivity",[25] and in 2004, The Guardian noted that "Nearly every review of an Oates book, it seems, begins with a list [of the number of books she has published]".[3] Critics have frequently criticized Oates for the level of her output.

In a journal entry written in the 1970s, Oates sarcastically addressed her critics, writing, "So many books! so many! Obviously JCO has a full career behind her, if one chooses to look at it that way; many more titles and she might as well... what?...give up all hopes for a 'reputation'?[...]but I work hard, and long, and as the hours roll by I seem to create more than I anticipate; more, certainly, than the literary world allows for a 'serious' writer. Yet I have more stories to tell, and more novels[...]".[26] In The New York Review of Books in 2007, Michael Dirda suggested that disparaging criticism of Oates "derives from reviewer's angst: How does one judge a new book by Oates when one is not familiar with most of the backlist? Where does one start?"[14]

Several publications have published lists of what they deem the best Joyce Carol Oates books, designed to help introduce readers to the author's daunting oeuvre. In a 2003 article titled "Joyce Carol Oates for dummies", The Rocky Mountain News recommended starting with her early short stories and the novels A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967), them (1969), Wonderland (1971), Black Water (1992), and Blonde (2000).[27] In 2006, The Times listed them, On Boxing (1987), Black Water, and High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966-2006 (2006) as "The Pick of Joyce Carol Oates".[28] In 2007, Entertainment Weekly listed their Oates "favorites" as Wonderland, Black Water, Blonde, I'll Take You There (2002), and The Falls (2004).[29] In 2003, Oates herself said that she thinks she will be remembered for, and would most want a first-time Oates reader to read, them and Blonde, though she added that "I could as easily have chosen a number of titles."[30]

Select awards and honors

Winner:

Nominated:

Bibliography

Novels

Short story collections

  • By the North Gate (1963)
  • Upon the Sweeping Flood And Other Stories (1966)
  • The Wheel of Love And Other Stories (1970)
  • Marriages and Infidelities (1972)
  • The Goddess and Other Women (1974)
  • The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies (1974)
  • The Poisoned Kiss And Other Stories from the Portuguese (1975)
  • The Seduction & Other Stories (1975)
  • Crossing the Border: Fifteen Tales (1976)
  • Night-Side (1977)
  • All the Good People I've Left Behind (1979)
  • A Sentimental Education: Stories (1980)
  • Last Days: Stories (1984)
  • Wild Saturday (1984)
  • Raven's Wing: Stories (1986)
  • The Assignation: Stories (1989)
  • Oates In Exile (1990)
  • Heat And Other Stories (1991)
  • Where Is Here? (1992)
  • Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories (1993)
  • Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (1994)
  • I, the Juror (1995)
  • Demon and other tales (1996)
  • Will You Always Love Me? And Other Stories (1996)
  • The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque (1998)
  • Faithless: Tales of Transgression (2001)
  • I Am No One You Know: Stories (2004)
  • The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2006)
  • High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966-2006 (2006)
  • The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2007)
  • The Temple (1996)
  • Wild Nights! (2008)
  • Life After High School
  • Dear Husband, (2009)

Novels as "Rosamond Smith"

  • Lives of the Twins (1987) (U.K. title: Kindred Passions)
  • Soul/Mate (1989)
  • Nemesis (1990)
  • Snake Eyes (1992)
  • You Can't Catch Me (1995)
  • Double Delight (1997)
  • Starr Bright Will Be With you Soon (1999)
  • The Barrens (2001)

Novels as "Lauren Kelly"

  • Take Me, Take Me With You (2003)
  • The Stolen Heart (2005)
  • Blood Mask (2006)

Novellas

  • The Triumph of the Spider Monkey (1976)
  • I Lock My Door Upon Myself (1990)
  • The Rise of Life on Earth (1991)
  • Black Water (1992)
  • First Love: A Gothic Tale (1996)
  • Beasts (2002)
  • Rape: A Love Story (2003)
  • The Corn Maiden : A Love Story (2005)

Drama

  • Miracle Play (1974)
  • Three Plays (1980)
  • In Darkest America (1991)
  • I Stand Before You Naked (1991)
  • Twelve Plays (1991) (including Black)
  • The Perfectionist and Other Plays (1995)
  • New Plays (1998)
  • Dr. Magic: Six One Act Plays (2004)

Essays and criticism

  • The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature (1972)
  • The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence (1974)
  • New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature (1974)
  • Contraries: Essays (1981)
  • The Profane Art: Essays & Reviews (1983)
  • On Boxing (1987)
  • (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities (1988)
  • George Bellows: American Artist (1995)
  • "They Just Went Away" 1995
  • Where I've Been, And Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose (1999)
  • The Faith of A Writer: Life, Craft, Art (2003)
  • Uncensored: Views & (Re)views (2005)

Poetry

  • Women In Love and Other Poems (1968)
  • Anonymous Sins & Other Poems (1969)
  • Love and Its Derangements (1970)
  • Angel Fire (1973)
  • The Fabulous Beasts (1975)
  • Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money (1978)
  • Invisible Woman: New and Selected Poems, 1970-1982 (1982)
  • The Time Traveler (1989)
  • Tenderness (1996)
  • The Coming Storm (Forthcoming)

Young adult fiction

Children's fiction

  • Come Meet Muffin! (1998)
  • Where Is Little Reynard? (2003)


Quotes

  • "I come from people who did not go to college. They didn't even finish high school. People who one might call ordinary Americans who are very hard-working."
  • "I'm drawn to failure. I feel that I'm contending with it constantly in my own life."
  • "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost."
  • "The brain is a muscle" from Love and Its Derangements (1970)
  • "Revenge is living well, without you."

External links

Papers

Biographies:

Websites:

Interviews and Speeches:

Miscellaneous:

References

  1. ^ "What Authors Influenced You?", Authorsontheweb.com. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  2. ^ The Program in Creative Writing, Princeton University
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Edemariam, Aida. "The new Monroe doctrine", The Guardian, 2004-09-04. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  4. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol. "Humanism and Its Discontents", The Humanist, November-December 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d e Reese, Jennifer. "Joyce Carol Oates gets personal", Entertainment Weekly, 2007-07-13.
  6. ^ Oates (2003.) The Faith of a Writer. p. 14.
  7. ^ a b Milazzo, Lee, ed. Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates. University Press of Mississippi, 1989. 143.
  8. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol. "Lowest Ebb: Bound", The New Yorker, 2002-04-22. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
  9. ^ Phillips, Robert. "The Art of Fiction No. 72: Joyce Carol Oates" (interview), The Paris Review 74, Fall-Winter 1978.
  10. ^ "Dedication Of Joyce Carol Oates Short Story To Dylan". http://www.edlis.org/twice/threads/joyce_carol_oates_dedication.html. 
  11. ^ "Charles Schmid, The Pied Piper of Tucson". CourtTV Crime Library. http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/predators/schmid/oates_9.html. 
  12. ^ a b Truman, Cheryl. "Author Joyce Carol Oates is always at her finest" (reprint), Lexington Herald-Leader, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  13. ^ HorrorOnline Author Focus: Joyce Carol Oates 1999
  14. ^ a b c Dirda, Michael. ""The Wand of the Enchanter", The New York Review of Books 54.20, 2007-12-20. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  15. ^ ""The Madness of Scholarship"". Kennesaw: The Magazine of Kennesaw State College. 1993. http://jco.usfca.edu/madness.html. 
  16. ^ a b Nash, Margo. "Learning to Write From the Masters", The New York Times, 2002-12-01. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  17. ^ a b Birnbaum, Robert. "Jonathan Safran Foer: Author of Everything is Illuminated talks with Robert Birnbaum", IdentityTheory.com, 2006-05-26. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  18. ^ a b "Raymond Smith, 77, Founder and Editor of Literary Journal", The New York Times, 2008-02-27. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  19. ^ a b Smalldon, Jeffrey. "End of story?: Joyce Carol Oates takes stock as she approaches 70", The Columbus Dispatch, 2008-04-06. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
  20. ^ http://crossingtheborder.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/married/
  21. ^ a b Oates, Joyce Carol. "Writers on Writing: To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet", The New York Times, 1999-07-18. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
  22. ^ Campbell, James. "The Oates Diaries", The New York Times, 2007-10-07. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
  23. ^ Folse, Molly. "The Mensans and Me: Intelligence and perception put to the test at American Mensa's Annual Gathering." Birmingham Weekly October 25-November 1, 2007. [1]
  24. ^ Birnbaum, Robert. "Personalities: Birnbaum v. Joyce Carol Oates", The Morning News, 2005-02-03. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
  25. ^ "The more they write, the more they write", The New York Times, 1989-07-30. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  26. ^ Johnson, Greg, ed. The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982. New York: Ecco, 2007. 331.
  27. ^ Davis, Duane. "Joyce Carol Oates for dummies", "Where to start", "Onto the novels" (series of articles), The Rocky Mountain News, 2003-06-13. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  28. ^ Freeman, John. "Joyce Carol Oates, up close and personal", The Times, 2007-08-11. Retrieved on 2008-10-28.
  29. ^ "Book News: Daily Oates Consumption", Entertainment Weekly, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  30. ^ "Off the Page: Joyce Carol Oates", The Washington Post, 2003-10-24. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  31. ^ http://www.chfestival.org/fest2006/index.cfm?fa=home.program&id=1236&sec=adult
  32. ^ Joyce Carol Oates' book, "We Were the Mulvaneys."
  33. ^ http://www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/mbi-archive/43
  34. ^ a b Ccritcal Mass The 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists
  35. ^ The National Book Foundation
  36. ^ Folger Shakespeare Library
  37. ^ http://jco.usfca.edu/awards.html
  38. ^ The National Book Critics Circle
  39. ^ The National Book Foundation
  40. ^ Joyce Carol Oates - Wonderland
  41. ^ The National Book Foundation
  42. ^ The National Book Foundation

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) is an American author and the Roger S. Berlind Professor in the Humanities with the Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University, where she has taught since 1978.

Contents

Sourced

  • Nothing is accidental in the universe — this is one of my Laws of Physics — except the entire universe itself, which is Pure Accident, pure divinity.
    • "The Summing Up: Meredith Dawe," Do What You Will (1970)
  • The worst cynicism: a belief in luck.
    • Do What You Will, pt. 2, ch. 15
  • Old women snore violently. They are like bodies into which bizarre animals have crept at night; the animals are vicious, bawdy, noisy. How they snore! There is no shame to their snoring. Old women turn into old men.
    • "What Is the Connection Between Men and Women?" Mademoiselle (New York, Feb. 1970)
  • It is not her body that he wants but it is only through her body that he can take possession of another human being, so he must labor upon her body, he must enter her body, to make his claim.
    • "In the Founders’ Room," Unholy Loves (1979)
  • If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework — you can still be writing, because you have that space.
    • New York Times (July 27, 1980)
  • When people say there is too much violence in [my books], what they are saying is there is too much reality in life.
    • New York Times (July 27, 1980)
  • Our enemy is by tradition our savior, in preventing us from superficiality.
    • Quoted in "Master Race," Partisan Review 50th Anniversary Edition, ed. William Phillips (1985)
  • When poets — write about food it is usually celebratory. Food as the thing-in-itself, but also the thoughtful preparation of meals, the serving of meals, meals communally shared: a sense of the sacred in the profane.
    • "Writers’ Hunger: Food as Metaphor," New York Times (August 19, 1986)
  • If food is poetry, is not poetry also food?
    • "Writers’ Hunger: Food as Metaphor," New York Times (August 19, 1986)
  • The television screen, so unlike the movie screen, sharply reduced human beings, revealed them as small, trivial, flat, in two banal dimensions, drained of color. Wasn’t there something reassuring about it! — that human beings were in fact merely images of a kind registered in one another’s eyes and brains, phenomena composed of microscopic flickering dots like atoms. They were atoms — nothing more. A quick switch of the dial and they disappeared and who could lament the loss?
  • Prose — it might be speculated — is discourse; poetry ellipsis. Prose is spoken aloud; poetry overheard. The one is presumably articulate and social, a shared language, the voice of "communication"; the other is private, allusive, teasing, sly, idiosyncratic as the spider’s delicate web, a kind of witchcraft unfathomable to ordinary minds.
    • " 'Soul at the White Heat': The Romance of Emily Dickinson’s Poetry," (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities, E.P. Dutton (1988)
  • When you’re 50 you start thinking about things you haven’t thought about before. I used to think getting old was about vanity — but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial.
    • Interview in The Guardian (London, August 18, 1989)

On Boxing (1987)

  • I can entertain the proposition that life is a metaphor for boxing — for one of those bouts that go on and on, round following round, jabs, missed punches, clinches, nothing determined, again the bell and again and you and your opponent so evenly matched it’s impossible not to see that your opponent is you... Life is like boxing in many unsettling respects. But boxing is only like boxing.
  • Boxing is about being hit rather more than it is about hitting, just as it is about feeling pain, if not devastating psychological paralysis, more than it is about winning.
  • Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost.
  • The spectacle of human beings fighting each other for whatever reason, including, at certain well-publicized times, staggering sums of money, is enormously disturbing because it violates a taboo of our civilization. Many men and women, however they steel themselves, cannot watch a boxing match because they cannot allow themselves to see what it is they are seeing. One thinks helplessly, This can’t be happening, even as, and usually quite routinely, it is happening. In this way boxing as a public spectacle is akin to pornography: in each case the spectator is made a voyeur, distanced, yet presumably intimately involved, in an event that is not supposed to happening as it is happening. The pornographic "drama," though as fraudulent as professional wrestling, makes a claim for being about something absolutely serious, if not humanly profound: it is not so much about itself as about the violation of a taboo. That the taboo is spiritual rather than physical, or sexual — that our most valuable human experience, love, is being is being desecrated, parodied, mocked — is surely at the core of our culture’s fascination with pornography.
  • In any case, raw aggression is thought to be the peculiar province of men, as nurturing is the peculiar province of women... The psychologist Erik Erikson discovered that, while little girls playing with blocks generally create pleasant interior spaces and attractive entrances, little boys are inclined to pile up the blocks as high as they can and then watch them fall down: "the contemplation of ruins," Erikson observes, "is a masculine specialty."
  • Boxing has become America’s tragic theater.
  • To be knocked out doesn’t mean what it seems. A boxer does not have to get up.
  • [The] third man in the ring makes boxing possible.
    • On the introduction of referees in the late 19th century
  • Love commingled with hate is more powerful than love. Or hate.

PBS Interview (June 28, 2005)

Tavis Smiley show

  • Any number of definitions help to determine who we are. It doesn't hurt to be a woman writer, an American woman writer, American woman writer of the 21st century. I think all these descriptions of us — and they're descriptions and adjectives that pertain to you — none of them diminish you, really. I think that maybe there's a kind of deepening or expansion the more identifications you have.
  • The written word, obviously, is very inward, and when we're reading, we're thinking. It's a sort of spiritual, meditative activity. When we're looking at visual objects, I think our eyes are obviously directed outward, so there's not as much reflective time. And it's the reflectiveness and the spiritual inwardness about reading that appeals to me.

Graduation Speech (May 28, 2006)

To Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA [1]

  • It's one of those secrets that's embarrassing to acknowledge, but we do love our students.
  • Very few writers of distinction in fact were outstanding as undergraduates.
  • There is the expectation that a younger generation has the opportunity to redeem the crimes and failings of their elders and would have the strength and idealism to do so.
  • At a time when politics deals in distortions and half truths, truth is to be found in the liberal arts. There's something afoot in this country and you are very much a part of it.

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