cover image Woman Writer

Woman Writer

Joyce Carol Oates. Dutton Books, $18.95 (402pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24652-7

The variety of topics covered in this collection of 27 essays is as remarkable as the proliferation of insights each contains. There are essays on somewhat general subjectssuch as the creative impulse, what it means to be a woman writer though the imagination is genderless and the abundance of ``wonderlands'' in our culture (vide Plato, Poe, Frankenstein , Lewis Carroll, Kafka et al . )and invigorating re-explorations of individual writers such as Melville, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Bronte, R. L. Stevenson and Hemingway. There are occasional pieces on, for example, Mike Tyson, Winslow Homer's paintings and meeting the Gorbachevs; a Budapest journal; and prefaces to Oates's own novels. Oates ( Contraries , New Heaven, New Earth ) is a master of compact summary (``Only the imagery of Kafka's surfaces is dreamlike; what lies beneath is history''); and she has an almost impish ability to surprise, as when she tells us criticism is a form of storytelling, food a kind of poetry. Major ad/promo. (July)