Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates, the author of more than one hundred books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and five hundred short stories was born in Lockport, New York in 1938, the eldest of three children. Her father was a tool and die maker and her mother a homemaker. Lockport is a working class town and this fact influenced her writing. Oates speaks little of her childhood, only saying that her family was happy and close-knit. Even at an early age, Oates loved to read. One of her favorite books was Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." By the time she was in her teens, she was reading the works of the Bronte sisters, Faulkner, Thoreau, Dostoevsky and Hemingway. These authors influenced her later writing.
An excellent student, Oates was awarded a scholarship to Syracuse University and majored in English. She found university life to be stimulating and graduated first in her class in 1960. At the age of 19 she won a college short story contest. While a student, she wrote novels but never tried to publish them. She then received her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin where she met Raymond J. Smith, a fellow graduate student. They were married in 1961. She and her husband, a professor of literature, moved to Detroit after one year in Texas. They taught at the University of Detroit for six years, before moving to Canada to teach at the University of Windsor. In 1978, they moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Oates combined writing and teaching and currently is the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professor of the Humanities, Professor of Creative Writing, Emerita at Princeton.
Oates has published nearly forty novels. She has also published poems, anthologies, essays and plays. She does not consider her working habits extraordinary, despite this impressive output. She works for several hours every day. Her topics stem from her working class background, her experiences teaching in a large city and her moral vision. Her characters are often poor. Some have serious psychological problems and are violent. Violence and its impact on people in American society are often themes in her work. She is concerned about the stresses on families: emotional, financial and sexual. Some of her characters are, to put it bluntly, evil.
Oates has also written suspense novels under a pseudonym as well as a book length essay on boxing. Although retired from teaching, Oates continues her daily routine of writing. A person of steady habits, readers can expect to see more essays and books from her pen.