“A master at explicating the emotional valence of placeand the turbulent weather of the mind, Oates pushes her characters to the edge, where the tides of myth, mayhem, and madness roll in.”
— Donna Seaman, Writers on the Air
“Prolific” is the adjective most often used to describe Joyce Carol Oates, and why not? With more than thirty novels (as of this writing), twenty anthologies or collections of short fiction, approximately a dozen volumes of poetry, several works of nonfiction, theatrical dramas and screenplays, children’s stories and books for young adults – not to mention countless essays and works of literary criticism published in periodicals as diverse as Shakespeare Quarterly and Cosmopolitan – Oates deserves to be the standard by which all other such creative output is measured.
Ironically, Oates herself doesn’t see it that way. For her, writing is “as natural as breathing,” and her self-stated goal is “to get the whole world into a book.”
She began early. In elementary school, Oates produced 200-page books which she would then design and bind herself. By age 15, she had written her first novel. The story of a drug addict who finds redemption by caring for a black stallion, publishers rejected it as being too depressing for the youth market.
Oates’ themes have never been particularly uplifting. Although she sees herself as a romantic and a naturalist, Oates most often explores the darker aspects of the human psyche through characters who demonstrate a spiritual, intellectual, and often sexual, dysfunction. Preyed upon by brutal and sadistic men through such violent and destructive acts as rape, child abuse, murder, and suicide, Oates examines the “vulnerabilities, anxieties, courage, recklessness, and resilience of young women and adolescent girls,” according to Donna Seaman in Writers on the Air.
Born on June 16, 1938, in the rural Erie County community of Lockport, New York, Oates received her early education in a modest one-room schoolhouse, before commuting into a nearby town for junior and senior high school. Fictionalized as “Eden County,” the area has served as the setting for many of Oates’ most popular novels, including the Oprah selection, We Were the Mulvaneys.
Following her 1960 graduation from Syracuse University, where, as an English major, she wrote a novel per semester, Oates enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin. It was there that she met her future husband, Raymond Joseph Smith, and the two were wed in 1961. In 1978, Oates joined the faculty of Princeton University, where she currently serves as the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.
Oates won the National Book Review in 1970 for the book, them, and was a finalist for the same award in 2000 for Blonde, her fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe. Black Water, based on the Kennedy-Chappaquiddick scandal, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Oates also writes under the pseudonyms “Rosamond Smith” and “Lauren Kelly.”
Works by Joyce Carol Oates
Note: Due to the volume of Oates’ published work, not all titles are listed below.
Please ask a librarian for assistance in obtaining a title not shown.
A Garden of Earthly Delights (1967)
Do With Me What You Will (1973)
A Bloodsmoor Romance (1982)
Marya: A Life (1986)
You Must Remember This (1987)
American Appetites (1989)
I Lock My Door Upon Myself (1990)
Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (1990)
The Rise of Life on Earth (1991)
Black Water (1992)
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang (1993)
What I Lived For (1994)
We Were the Mulvaneys (1996) **, LP
Man Crazy (1997)
My Heart Laid Bare (1998)
Broke Heart Blues (1999)
Middle Age: A Romance (2001)
I’ll Take You There (2002) ***
The Tattooed Girl (2003)
Rape: A Love Story (2003)
The Falls (2004) ***
Missing Mom (2005) ***
Black Girl, White Girl (2006) ***
The Gravedigger’s Daughter (2007) ***
Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (1994)
The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque (1998)
Faithless: Tales of Transgression (2001)
The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2006)
The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2008) ***
Heat & Other Stories (1991)
Where Is Here?: Stories (1992)
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been: Selected Early Stories (1995)
Will You Always Love Me?: And Other Stories (1996)
I Am No One You Know: Stories (2004)
High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories, 1966-2006 (2006)
Where I’ve Been, and Where I’m Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose (1999)
The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art (2004)
Uncensored: Views & (Re)views (2005)
The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982 (2007)