Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is one of most prolific and versatile contemporary writer in the United States of America. She has produced so much work and on various subjects, but most of which focus majorly on intellectual, sexual and spiritual decline of modern America society.


Joyce Carol Oates, an acclaimed writer popularly known for novels such as ‘The Falls’, ‘A Garden of Earthly Delights’ and ‘them’ that won the National Book Award, was born on the 16th of June 1938, in Lockport, New York. Joyce dad, Fredrick James Oates was a tool designer, while her mum, Caroline was a homemaker or housewife of Hungarian descent. Currently aged 76 years, she is the oldest of Caroline and Frederic Oates’s three children.

Her family lived in a working-class family community on a farm in Millersport, New York owned by Caroline’s parents. She loved to read and read a lot for that matter. Even before she could learn to write, she’d started telling stories by drawing pictures. Though life was sometimes tough, her writing skills and love for literature slowly developed.

At age 15, in 1953, Joyce wrote her first and foremost novel, though the publishers rejected it on the basis that the subject matter that concerned the rehabilitation of a drug addict (restoring to a productive state) too depressing for the teenage audiences. Upon finishing her high school education, she won a scholarship to join the Syracuse University, where she further developed her writing skills.

She studied English at the university and prior to her senior year (at 19 years of age), she received an award for being a co-winner of a Mademoiselle Magazine sponsored fiction contest known as ‘college short story’. In 1960, she graduated from the university on top of her class, after which she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she received her M.A. It was here that she also met an English professor called Raymond Joseph Smith and got married in 1961.

Writing and Teaching

In 1961, after receiving her master’s degree and beginning her Ph.D. in English at Rice University, Joyce Oates came across one of her stories in Foley’s collection of Best American Short Stories. It was then that she decided to launch her writing career (become a full-time writer) and published her first book, a collection of short stories in 1963 known as By the North Gate.

Joyce Oates also lectured at the State University of Detroit from 1961 to 1967, after which she relocated to Canada with her husband to teach at Windsor University. In 1974, they established the Ontario Review publication. In 1977 after leaving Windsor University, she became a writer-in-residence and later on a professor as the Princeton University in New Jersey.

In 1964, Joyce Oates’s published her foremost novel, ‘With Shuddering Fall’, at the age of 26 that showed her interest in violence and evil in the romantic story between a 30 year old stock car driver and a teenage girl, which ends tragically with an accident that claims his life. Joyce’s best-recognized early novels form a three-volume work or trilogy in simple terms, exploring three different sections of the American society. The foremost, ‘A Garden of Earthly Delights’ published in 1967, narrates the story of a migrant worker daughter who marries a rich farmer so as to provide for her son born out of wedlock. The woman’s life is, however, destroyed when the child kills his step-father and then commits suicide.

Oates’s second novel ‘In Expensive People’ was published in 1967. It exposes the lives of people living in the outskirts whose concern on material comforts shows the vacuum of their lives. The last volume, ‘them’, a fiction book was published in 1969 and won the National Book Award. It describes the suffering and violence suffering endured by 3 generations of an urban-dwelling family located in Detroit, Michigan. Joyce’s experiences as a lecturer in Detroit in the early 1960s added to her understanding of the city and her social issues.

Joyce Oates’s 1970s novels explore characters involved in a number of American professional as well as cultural institutions whilst adding tragic features. ‘Wonderland’, published in 1971 narrates a story of a brilliant doctor who’s unable to establish a fulfilling home life. On the other hand, ‘Do With Me What You Will’ published in 1973 narrates a young attorney life honored by his friends for his dedication to social work. Oates’s The Assassins: A Book of Hours published in 1975 focuses on the impacts of the assassination of a prominent politician on his two brothers and more so, the wife. ‘Son of the Morning’, published in 1978 narrates the rise & fall of a minister whose faith is tested and strengthened by a number of happenings in his life. Lastly, ‘Unholy Loves’ published in 1979 focuses on the lives of some teachers at a small college in New York.

In the early 1980s, Joyce Oates published a number of novels based on publications by nineteenth-century authors. The foremost was ‘A Bloodsmoor Romance’ published in 1982. It’s a story of 5 maiden sisters who lived in Pennsylvania State in the late 1800s. The novel was influenced by Charlotte Bronte 1816 to 1855 writings and Emily Brontë 1818 to1848 writings. In ‘The Mysteries of Winterthur’ published in 1984, Joyce borrowed heavily from Edgar Allan Poe 1809 to 1849 works. While several critics dismissed these publications, others, citing Joyce Oates’s proficient description of evil, upheld that they were major achievements in literature.

Other publications

Throughout her writing career, Joyce has distributed her energies amongst various projects simultaneously. Her ‘On Boxing’, book-length essay published in 1987 resulted in more than one appearance mentioning on a televised boxing bout. Almost simultaneously, she submitted a mystery novel under a pseudonym to a publisher and had the delight of having it accepted. She published the work ‘Lives of the Twins’ under the title Rosamond Smith her reasons being she wanted a fresh reading and to escape from her own identity. Although she used the pseudonym repeatedly on numerous other books, she went back to using her original name on her ‘My Heart Laid Bare’ publication, wherein she explores morality during the 1920s.

Other forms of Oates’s works also address human’s darker sides. Most critics feel her short fiction, for which she’s received the O. Henry Special Award twice for Continuing Achievement, best show her main themes. Collections such as the 1974 publication ‘By the North Gate; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America’; 1980 publication ‘The Lamb of Abyssalia)’; and the 1986 publication ‘Raven’s Wing’ has pieces that emphasis on abusive and violent relationships between men & women.

Later Publications

Some of Oates’s later publications include the 1990 ‘Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart’ where she returns to her familiar themes of violence and race, the 1992 ‘Black Water’, an narration of a catastrophic encounter between a young woman and a powerful U.S. senator at a party, and the 1993 ‘Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang’, which narrates the destructive doings of a gang of teenage girls, as well as several published and produced plays in the 1990s.

Oates published her twenty-ninth novel in 1999 called ‘Broke Heart Blues’. Her other publications included ‘Blonde’ (2000), based on Marilyn Monroe (an actress) life. It was a National Book Award finalist for fiction. Also published include ‘Getting to Know You’ (June 2000), and released a film based on her ‘Heat’ short story collection of 1992. In 2000, she published ‘Beast’ a novella and ‘Middle Age: A Romance’, a novel, which were her edited version of ‘The Best American Essays of the Century’ collection’.

Raymond Smith, Joyce Oates’s husband died in 2008 of pneumonia complications. She reflected on the time they spent together, his death as well as the aftermath in ‘A Widow’s Story’, her 2011 memoir.

Books in order of publication:

Garden Of Earthly Delights Books

A Garden of Earthly Delights(1966) 
Expensive People(1968) 

Gothic Saga Books

A Bloodsmoor Romance(1982) 
My Heart Laid Bare(1998) 
The Accursed(2013) 

Gothic Saga Collections

Mysteries of Winterthurn(1984)

Standalone Novels

With Shuddering Fall(1964) 
Do With Me What You Will(1973) 
The Assassins: A Book of Hours(1975) 
Son of the Morning(1978) 
Unholy Loves(1979) 
Angel of Light(1981) 
Luxury of Sin(1983) 
Marya: A Life(1986) 
You Must Remember This(1987) 
Lives of the Twins(1987) 
American Appetites(1989) 
Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart(1990) 
Snake Eyes(1992) 
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang(1993) 
What I Lived For(1994) 
You Can’t Catch Me(1995) 
We Were the Mulvaneys(1996) 
Double Delight(1997) 
Man Crazy(1997) 
Broke Heart Blues(1998) 
Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon(1999) 
The Barrens(2000) 
Middle-Age: A Romance(2001) 
Big Mouth and Ugly Girl(2002) 
I’ll Take You There(2002) 
The Tattooed Girl(2003) 
Freaky Green Eyes(2003) 
Take Me, Take Me with You(2004) 
The Falls(2004) 
Mother, Missing(2005) 
The Stolen Heart(2005) 
Blood Mask(2006) 
After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away(2006) 
Black Girl, White Girl(2006) 
The Gravedigger’s Daughter(2007) 
My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike(2008) 
A Fair Maiden(2009) 
Little Bird of Heaven(2009) 
Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You(2012) 
Daddy Love(2013) 
The Sacrifice(2015) 
Jack of Spades(2015) 
The Man Without a Shadow(2016) 
A Book of American Martyrs(2017) 
Hazards of Time Travel(2018) 

Short Stories

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(1996) 
Rape: A Love Story(2003) 
Spotted Hyenas: A Romance(2010) 
The Rescuer(2012) 
Mystery, Inc.(2015) 
The Sign of the Beast(2017) 

Short Story Collections

By the North Gate(1963) 
Upon the Sweeping Ford and Other Stories(1966) 
‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’: Stories of Young America(1966) 
Anonymous Sins and Other Poems(1969) 
Cupid and Psyche(1970) 
Love and Its Derangements(1970) 
The Wheel of Love(1970) 
Wild Saturday and Other Stories(1970) 
Marriages and Infidelities(1972) 
Angel Fire: Poems(1973) 
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 and Other Stories(1975) 
The Fabulous Beasts: Poems(1975) 
Crossing the Border: Fifteen Tales(1976) 
Night-Side: 18 Tales(1977) 
Women Whose Lives are Food, Men Whose Lives are Money: Poems(1978) 
All the Good People I’ve Left Behind(1979) 
Three Plays(1980) 
A Sentimental Education(1981) 
Invisible Woman(1982) 
Last Days(1984) 
Raven’s Wing(1986) 
The Time Traveler: Poems(1987) 
The Assignation(1988) 
Demon and Other Tales(1991) 
Heat and Other Stories(1991) 
Oates in Exile(1991) 
Twelve Plays(1991) 
Where is Here?: Stories(1992) 
Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque(1994) 
Will You Always Love Me?: And Other Stories(1994) 
The Perfectionist and Other Plays(1995) 
The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque(1996) 
Tenderness: Poems(1996) 
New Plays(1998) 
Where I’ve Been, and Where I’m Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose(1999) 
Faithless: Tales of Transgression(2001) 
Small Avalanches and Other Stories(2003) 
I Am No One You Know: Stories(2004) 
The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense(2006) 
High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories, 1966-2006(2006) 
The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense(2007) 
Wild Nights!: Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway(2008) 
Dear Husband: Stories(2009) 
Sourland: Stories(2010) 
Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense(2010) 
What You Wish For: A Book for Darfur(2011) 
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares(2011) 
Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong(2012) 
Black Dahlia & White Rose(2012) 
Wild Nights! and Grandpa Clemens & Angelfish 1906: Two One Act Plays(2012) 
High Crime Area: Tales of Darkness and Dread(2014) 
Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories(2014) 
The Doll-Master(2016) 
Dis Mem Ber(2017) 
Beautiful Days(2018) 

Standalone Plays

Miracle Play(1974) 
I Stand Before You Naked(2012) 

Picture Books

Come Meet Muffin!(1998) 
Where is Little Reynard(2003) 
Naughty Cherie!(2008) 
The New Kitten(2019) 


Scenes From American Life: Contemporary Short Fiction(1973) 
The Best American Short Stories 1979(1979) 
Night Walks: A Bedside Companion(1982) 
Story: Fictions Past and Present(1984) 
Reading the Fights(1988) 
The Best American Essays 1991(1991) 
The Oxford Book of American Short Stories(1992) 
The Sophisticated Cat: A Gathering of Stories, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings About Cats(1992) 
American Gothic Tales(1996) 
The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction(1997) 
Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers(1997) 
Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction(2000) 
The Best American Essays of the Century(2000) 
The Best New American Voices 2003(2002) 
The Best American Mystery Stories 2005(2005) 
The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction(2008) 
New Jersey Noir(2011) 

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature(1972) 
The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence(1973) 
New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature(1974) 
Contraries: Essays(1981) 
The Profane Art: Essays and Reviews(1983) 
First Person Singular: Writers on Their Craft(1984) 
On Boxing(1987) 
Woman Writer: Occasions and Opportunities(1988) 
George Bellows: American Artist(1995) 
The Life of the Writer, The Life of the Career: Prolegomena to a Personal Ethics(1995) 
The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art(2003) 
Uncensored: Views and (Re)views(2005) 
The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973-1982(2007) 
Muhammad Ali: Ringside(2009) 
In Rough Country(2010) 
A Widow’s Story: A Memoir(2011) 
The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age(2015)
Soul at the White Heat(2016)
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