Joyce Carol Oates, (1938-...), is an American author. She gives most of her novels and short stories a nightmarish quality and emphasizes sex and violence. However, her most significant subjects are society and the insanity it generates. At the core of her work is a moral vision. Oates has written more than 100 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Some critics argue she would profit from polishing her fiction, but most agree that her pictures of society are accurate.
Oates dramatized the relationship between American society and its people in A GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS (1967). This novel shows how she believes society treats the poor. THEM (1969) portrays the violent lives of a poor family in Detroit. UNHOLY LOVES (1979) is a comic novel set on an American college campus. A BLOODSMOOR ROMANCE (1982) satirizes romantic novels of the 1800s.
Often Oates' characters are mentally ill. For example, in EXPENSIVE PEOPLE (1968), a teen-ager has difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy and confesses to his mother's murder, though he may not have committed the crime. The hero of WONDERLAND (1971) and the heroine of DO WITH ME WHAT YOU WILL (1973) have mentally ill fathers. Oates' novella BLACK WATER (1992) portrays actions of a politician who belongs to a powerful dynasty and reveals himself to be violent and a victimizer of the narrator.
Oates' first novel was WITH SHUDDERING FALL (1964). Her other novels include MARYA: A LIFE (1986), YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS (1987), BECAUSE IT IS BITTER, and BECAUSE IT IS MY HEART (1990), FOXFIRE: CONFESSIONS OF A GIRL GANG (1993), WE WERE THE MULVANEYS (1996), BROKE HEART BLUES (1999), BLONDE (2000), RAPE: A LOVE STORY (2003), THE FALLS (2004), MISSING MOM (2005), and BLACK GIRL/WHITE GIRL (2006). Oates also writes novels for young adults, including BIG MOUTH & UGLY GIRL (2002), FREAKY GREEN EYES (2003), SEXY (2005), and AFTER THE WRECK, I PICKED MYSELF UP, SPREAD MY WINGS, AND FLEW AWAY (2006).
Oates' stories have been collected in several volumes, including BY THE NORTH GATE (1963), THE WHEEL OF LOVE (1970), LAST DAYS (1984), HEAT (1991), WILL YOU ALWAYS LOVE ME? (1996), FAITHLESS: TALES OF TRANSGRESSION (2001), I AM NO ONE YOU KNOW (2004), THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES: TALES OF MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE (2006), and HIGH LONESOME: STORIES 1966-2006 (2006). She has also written scholarly essays and poetry. In essays collected in THE FAITH OF A WRITER (2003), Oates discusses the craft of writing. In addition, she is an accomplished editor and anthologist. Oates also writes thrillers under the name Rosamond Smith. Her nonfiction has been published in such collections as THE PROFANE ART (1983), WHERE I'VE BEEN, AND WHERE I'M GOING: ESSAYS, REVIEWS, AND PROSE (1999), and UNCENSORED: VIEWS AND (RE)VIEWS (2005). Her poetry appears in LOVE AND ITS DERANGEMENTS (1974) and THE TIME TRAVELER (1989). Oates has written many plays, several published in TWELVE PLAYS (1991) and THE PERFECTIONIST AND OTHER PLAYS (1995). She has also edited numerous books of essays and stories. Oates was born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York.
Arthur M. Saltzman, Ph.D., Professor of English, Missouri Southern State College.
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