The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982
Joyce Carol Oates, . . Ecco, $29.95 (509pp) ISBN 978-0-06-122798-1
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.
Reviewed on: 08/06/2007