• Birth—June 16, 1938
• Where—Lockport, New York, USA
• Education—B.A., Syracuse Univ.; M.A., Univ. of Wisconsin
• Awards—National Book Award for Them, 1970; 14 O. Henry
Awards; six Pushcart Prizes
• Currently—lives in Princeton, New Jersey
Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.
A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college— a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate.
Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of Them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor—from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize—and her fiction turns up with regularity on the New York Times annual list of Notable Books.
On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades—familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence—she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."
Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.
• When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.
• Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s. (Author bio from Barnes & Noble.)
Praise for Oates from the UK
• One of the female frontrunners for the title of Great American Novelist.— Maggie Gee, Sunday Times
• A writer of extraordinary strengths...she has dealt consistently with what is probably the great American theme— the quest for the creation of self...Her great subject, naturally, is love.—Ian Sansom, Guardian
• Her prose is peerless and her ability to make you think as she re-invents genres is unique. Few writers move so effortlessly from the gothic tale to the psychological thriller to the epic family saga to the lyrical novella. Even fewer authors can so compellingly and entertainingly tell a story.—Jackie McGlone, Scotland on Sunday
• Novelists such as John Updike, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer slug it out for the title of the Great American Novelist. But maybe they're wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Great American Novelist is a woman. —The Herald
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