One of the most beloved and compelling writers in contemporary American literature is coming to Boise's Egyptian Theatre. Joyce Carol Oates will be here as part of the popular "Readings and Conversations" series presented by The Cabin.
Anthony Doerr, local novelist, short story author and essayist, will introduce Oates. While a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, Doerr became acquainted with Oates and says of her, "She is a very warm person, with huge reserves of energy, and she has a reputation of being very dedicated to her students (all undergraduates, by the way). I mean, she's Joyce Carol Oates, and she's spending lots of hours every week commenting on stories by 19- and 20-year-olds."
Doerr continues, "My favorite writings of hers, for all her diverse and prodigious output of fiction, are actually her essays: She writes about writing, about writers, and about theworld beautifully.
Oates' fiction is renowned for its portrayal of predominantly male sexual violence in American life.
Although proficient in many genres, the majority of Oates' work has strong elements of Naturalism, a literary style portraying life under an unforgiving light without burying, disguising or softening the hard edges. She is also noted for her Gothic elements, such as the gloom, mystery, degeneration and decay that can happen in our day-to-day existence.
For example, the novel Blonde finds Oates embracing the fictionalization of public life. This iconic sexual hagiography explores the Marilyn Monroe phenomenon in all its alluring, prattling, voyeuristic devastation, and is one of two books for which Oates says she'd like best to be remembered. The other is them, a novel about an American family from Detroit existing on the periphery of society after World War II.
About her work, Oates wrote in The American Poetry Review in 2003, "It's bizarre to me that people think that I am 'prolific' and that I must use every spare minute of my time when in fact, as my intimates have always known, I spend most of my time looking out the window. I recommend it." She also says about her work, "Writing, for me, is primarily about remembering."
As to the value of writing as art, she also wrote, "I would wish to think that serious art is transgressive, upsetting and not consoling, and that the serious artist can't really expect not be attacked, ridiculed, dismissed." But she doesn't think that serious writing and art is theorizing. "Speechifying is not poetry. Airing grandiose views is not literature. Theorizing is mostly self-aggrandizement. Advertising for the kind of thing that you, with your specific limitations, can do."
According to her bio, Oates began writing at the age of fourteen after she was given a typewriter. "When I'm with people I often fall into a kind of waking sleep, a daydreaming about the people, the strangers, who are to be the characters in a story or novel I will be writing ... I try to put this all together, working very slowly, never hurrying the process. I can't hurry it any more than I can prevent it."
Oates has become one of the world's best known American authors penning enduring works of fiction including the We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award. Oates has received the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and has been the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University since 1978.
Raised near Lockport, New York, Oates has published, poetry, essays, dramas and more than forty novels, all while teaching.
While in Boise, Oates will conduct an informal question-and-answer session on the art and craft of writing at The Cabin. Space is limited, so pre-registration is required.
"Readings and Conversations "is a lecture and discussion series in its fifth season. Guest authors are invited to read their work, talk about what inspires them, and share their thoughts and perspectives on important current issues. This is followed by questions from the audience, and a book signing. Guest authors have included Amy Tan, Billy Collins, Francis Mayes, Anne Lamott and David Sedaris.
The Cabin, located in the historic log structure adjacent to the Boise downtown library, is a learning center for literature and language skills, where emerging writers have access to professionals, and where children are a key focus during the thriving Summer Writing Camp. The Cabin is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
Monday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m., $27 Cabin members, $35 non-members. For tickets or more information concerning Joyce Carol Oates' visit to Boise, including her Egyptian Theater event and her question-and-answer session, call The Cabin at 331-8000 or visit their web site at www.thecabinidaho.org.