Books by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde, whic


HIGH CRIME AREA by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 2014

"Oates' mastery of imagery and stream of consciousness enhances the gritty settings and the frailties of her grotesque and pitiable subjects."
From Oates (Carthage, 2014, etc.) comes this collection of eight stories, seven previously published, that explore the depths of human despair and cruelty. Read full book review >
CARTHAGE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 21, 2014

"Knotted, tense, digressive and brilliant."
Dark events in Carthage, a town in upstate New York—a war hero returning from Iraq, a broken engagement, a mysterious murder—but not everything is as it seems. Read full book review >
EVIL EYE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 3, 2013

"With her focus on deviant and twisted characters, Oates continues to be a worthy descendant of the gothic tradition of Edgar Allan Poe."
Four novellas—and as the subtitle informs us, in each, love has definitely "gone wrong" in perverse and creepy ways. Read full book review >
THE ACCURSED by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 5, 2013

"Though it requires some work and has a wintry feel to it, it's oddly entertaining, as a good supernatural yarn should be."
Oates (Sourland, 2010, etc.) finishes up a big novel begun years before—and it's a keeper. Read full book review >
DADDY LOVE by Joyce Carol Oates
Released: Jan. 8, 2013

"This is an uncomfortable novel to read; Oates makes us squirm as she forces us to see some of the action through Love's twisted and warped perspective."
Oates raises a troubling question here—whether moral fiction can emerge out of a morally reprehensible character. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2012

"Although her material can be macabre, mawkish and deeply unsettling, Oates' hypnotic prose ensures that readers will be unable to look away."
Another gallery of grotesquerie from the staggeringly prolific Oates. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 21, 2012

"Intense, keenly insightful, nuanced and affecting. (Fiction. 14 & up)"
At the heart of Oates' riveting and poignant story of three teenage girls in crisis is the notion that a "secret can be too toxic to expose to a friend." Read full book review >
NEW JERSEY NOIR by Joyce Carol Oates
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Nov. 1, 2011

"With barely a hint of redemption to light the darkness, this volume exacts an even higher toll than the turnpike."
A tour through the Garden State is no bed of roses in this bleak collection of stories and poems. Read full book review >
THRILLERS
Released: Nov. 1, 2011

"While the shadows of Poe and Hitchcock loom over these tales, it's clear that Oates herself is a master at creeping out her readers."
Seven nightmarish tales written over a 15-year period. Read full book review >
A WIDOW'S STORY by Joyce Carol Oates
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 15, 2011

"Oates continues to keep her readers guessing at her next thrilling effort."
A wildly unhinged, deeply intimate look at the eminent author's "derangement of Widowhood." Read full book review >
GIVE ME YOUR HEART by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 7, 2011

"Nothing to burnish Oates's reputation, but reliable chills for fans familiar with the product (Sourland, 2010, etc.)."
Ten reprinted stories—six from literary quarterlies, four from mystery venues—that use contemporary gothic horror to shed light on the principals' festering family wounds. Read full book review >
SOURLAND by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 14, 2010

"Oates being Oates. Let the reader beware."
More of (mostly) the same in Oates's latest collection of 16 in-your-face short stories. Read full book review >
IN ROUGH COUNTRY by Joyce Carol Oates
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: June 29, 2010

"A top-notch literary talent invites readers to find new inspiration in these works, and in her own."
A poignant, nostalgic collection of literary criticism by one of America's premier authors, gathered in the aftermath of her husband's recent death. Read full book review >
A FAIR MAIDEN by Joyce Carol Oates
THRILLERS
Released: Jan. 6, 2010

"Oates at her most restrained and hence best. This one almost makes up for the ludicrous overkill of My Sister, My Love (2008). Almost."
A patient act of seduction has curiously appropriate mythic resonance in this brisk novella. Read full book review >
LITTLE BIRD OF HEAVEN by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 15, 2009

"One-half of a masterpiece."
Typically overstuffed chronicle of sexual violence and family implosion, closest in kinship within the author's family of novels to We Were the Mulvaneys (1996) and You Must Remember This (1987). Read full book review >
DEAR HUSBAND, by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 31, 2009

"One of this indefatigable author's best books in some time."
The latest of Oates' numerous collections offers 14 tales variously concerned with family relationships and crises. Read full book review >
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 14, 2008

"Usable as an introduction to a canon in the making, but inconsequential, even for an anthology."
A usual-suspects gathering of living American short-story writers, with a few nods to the up-and-coming generation. Read full book review >
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 24, 2008

"A bad idea, poorly executed. Where will Oates take us next? One wonders, and fears."
Oates's 35th novel, which follows last year's flawed but interesting The Gravedigger's Daughter, is another bloated roman a cléf. Read full book review >
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 2008

"Our most industrious writer back at the anvil, making her usual unholy racket, while simultaneously throwing off sporadic sparks of unalloyed brilliance."
Oates (The Gravedigger's Daughter, 2007, etc.) channels her energies into fictionalizations of the last days of five major American writers. Read full book review >
NAUGHTY CHÉRIE! by Joyce Carol Oates
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

Continuing one of the more unfortunate pairings in modern picture books, Oates and Graham re-team for a third kitten-centered tale. Read full book review >

THE JOURNAL OF JOYCE CAROL OATES by Joyce Carol Oates
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 2, 2007

""Love. Friendship. Art. Work. These are my values," Oates says. Watching her juggle them in these replete pages is a stimulating experience."
Tensions between public image and private self are engagingly acknowledged and analyzed in illuminating excerpts from journals begun during the second decade of this prolific author's remarkable career. Read full book review >
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Aug. 1, 2007

"Surreal interior landscapes, shamelessly incantatory prose and an enduring ambivalence toward the neo-gothic conventions from which Oates (The Gravedigger's Daughter, 2007, etc.) draws her power to shock and dismay."
Ten reprints (2001-2006) that run the gamut from almost-realism to out-of-this-world. Read full book review >
THE GRAVEDIGGER’S DAUGHTER by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 1, 2007

"A truly representative sampling of this unpredictable author's grind-it-out strengths and mind-boggling weaknesses."
The lingering residue of survivor's guilt and trauma shape a battered woman's life on the run in Oates's latest novel (Black Girl/White Girl, 2006, etc.), which is stuffed with echoes of her earlier fiction. Read full book review >
BLACK GIRL/WHITE GIRL by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

"Characteristically strident and forced—and it's a real shame. This could have been one of Oates's better books."
Oates's billionth is a brooding analysis of racial relations and white liberal guilt, which partially echoes her eerie novella Beasts (2001) and earlier major novel Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Oates's most recent foray into YA fiction won't disappoint fans of her teen writing, especially those who loved Big Mouth and Ugly Girl (2003). Read full book review >

HIGH LONESOME by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 4, 2006

"Otherwise, a longstanding literary need somewhat successfully addressed with this collection."
An imposing collection of 35 stories. Read full book review >
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 9, 2006

"Those who can weather the Oates tics (the overused parentheses; the words that repeat, repeat, repeat; all those candles and flames) will savor this clever mind (Missing Mom, 2005, etc.) stooping to middlebrow level. Others may reach for the work of Celia Fremlin or Ruth Rendell."
A gender-specific collection of nine reprinted stories that will make you wish for that extra chromosome. Read full book review >
THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2005 by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 5, 2005

"Oates thoughtfully introduces generally gritty tales told with panache. "
Twenty previously published short stories with but one thing in common: good writing. Read full book review >
MISSING MOM by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 4, 2005

"After last year's triumph The Falls, Oates gives us this? Get this woman an editor. "
Oates's latest, which examines the aftershocks of a suburban murder, is an uneasy cross between her literary fiction and her pseudonymous "Rosamond Smith" mystery thrillers. Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 2005

"Nonetheless, it's useful to know what good writers are reading and thinking about, and if Oates the critic doesn't always dazzle, she seldom disappoints."
A seventh collection of the tireless Oates's industrious literary journalism: 38 recent reviews and essays. Read full book review >
SEXY by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION
Released: March 1, 2005

Handsome, popular, and athletic, 16-year-old Darren Flynn should be on top of the world. Read full book review >

THE FALLS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 17, 2004

"This big, enthralling novel recaptures the gift for Dreiserian realism that distinguishes such Oates triumphs as them, What I Lived For, and We Were the Mulvaneys. It's her best ever—and a masterpiece."
Oates (I Am No One You Know, 2003, etc.) painstakingly examines the impulse toward self-destruction—and the ways we find to heal ourselves. Read full book review >
I AM NO ONE YOU KNOW by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 16, 2004

"Vintage Oates—and very much an acquired taste."
More of the same, from the most frustratingly uneven writer in the business. Read full book review >
RAPE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

"We've been here before, and this is flawed work, as noted. But Oates has achieved memorable successes in the short-novel form and, on balance, this is one of them."
Oates looks at a violent crime and its aftermath from multiple viewpoints: a tense novella somewhat akin to her Beasts (2002). Read full book review >
FREAKY GREEN EYES by Joyce Carol Oates
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Freaky Green Eyes, born during a drunken assault at a teen party, becomes one teen's inner voice of resistance as her family crumbles around her. Read full book review >

WHERE IS LITTLE REYNARD? by Joyce Carol Oates
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Proving that facility with words does not necessarily stretch to meet all audiences, master novelist Oates proffers a clunky, sentimental tale of a shy little kitten who finds bravery. Read full book review >

THE TATTOOED GIRL by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 20, 2003

"Better-than-average Oates, all the same."
A hybrid, somewhere between (her pseudonym) Rosamond Smith's suspense thrillers and the melodramatic clashes of opposites in earlier works like Wonderland (1971) and American Appetites (1989). Read full book review >
A GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 6, 2003

"A wrenching delineation of the culture of poverty—and how it shapes and circumscribes character."
This extensive revision of Oates's second novel, published in 1967 and nominated for a National Book Award, breathes new life into a precociously brilliant book that probably deserves a place among the classics of American naturalist fiction. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: March 1, 2003

Twelve stories, twelve girls—each different from the next, each pitting its teen protagonist against age to define herself. Read full book review >

I’LL TAKE YOU THERE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 4, 2002

"One senses that Oates is working through deeply personal material here. I'll Take You There may in fact hold important clues to the autobiographical impulses that appear partially to generate and shape her fiction—but it isn't much of a novel."
Oates's 30th full-length novel is one of her most bizarre and unsettling: a monotonous, only intermittently dramatic exploration of a "brilliant" young woman's quest for certainty and human connection, undertaken at a fictional university during the just-beginning-to-be-turbulent early '60s. Read full book review >
BEST NEW AMERICAN VOICES 2003 by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"Varied and risky—with the fingerprint of Oates's fetish for the macabre."
Ultraprolific Oates (I'll Take You There, p. 985) perhaps doesn't have enough to do; this time out, she leans toward the experimental with 15 tales selected from writing programs' brightest and best. Read full book review >
BIG MOUTH & UGLY GIRL by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION
Released: May 1, 2002

A seasoned pro from the world of adult literature turns her keen observer's eye to young-adult realism, with notable success. Read full book review >

MIDDLE AGE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 10, 2001

"It's better than Blonde (2000). But that's a little like saying that Plato's Timaeus goes down easier than the Parmenides."
Oates's fat new opus (her 29th full-length novel, if anyone is still counting) traces the effects of an inscrutable sculptor's benign personality and aura on a townful of admirers who find their lives permanently altered by the memory of him. Read full book review >
FAITHLESS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 3, 2001

"Oates has been publishing short fiction for 40 years. Let's have a Best or Selected Stories, by all means. But, please, no more books like Faithless."
Another (the 21st, already) ho-hum collection demonstrating both Oates's unceasing productivity and her inexplicable willingness to gather embarrassingly shoddy work together with handfuls of stories actually worth preserving. Read full book review >
BEASTS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

"It's not subtle, but it works. Whenever Oates (Middle Age, p. 970, etc.) composes at this length, she doesn't pad or overwrite. The result is a cunning fusion of Gothic romance and psychological horror story, and one of her best recent books."
Oates's newest novella is a tale of academe similar to (though darker than) such earlier books as The Hungry Ghosts (1974) and American Appetites (1989). Read full book review >
SNAPSHOTS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 30, 2000

The chemistry between mothers and daughters can be loving, lethal, or some blend of both, as Oates and Berliner's first-rate collection of 17 stories (14 published previously) amply illustrates. Read full book review >

THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS OF THE CENTURY by Joyce Carol Oates
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Sept. 22, 2000

"Above average, but definitely not the "Best.""
An eclectic anthology of 55 essays chosen by Oates (Blonde, p. 11, etc.) comprising a generous selection of less known but deserving work from mostly big-name writers. Read full book review >
BLONDE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 2000

In the perverse manner all too typical of her singular career, Oates follows up one of her best novels'last year's plaintive Broke Heart Blues'with one of the worst she (or any other contemporary "serious" author, for that matter) has ever committed to paper. Read full book review >

BROKE HEART BLUES by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 25, 1999

"            That ambiguity is dramatized in a mesmerizing portrayal of small-town America in extremis that speaks volumes about the way our imaginations create our own reality."
            The story of a handsome teenaged killer whose romantic notoriety reverberates for decades in the minds and hearts of his classmates and neighbors is the highly charged core of Oates's generously detailed twenty-ninth novel. Read full book review >
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 2, 1998

Oates's newest collection (and, to nobody's surprise, second major work of fiction this year) intriguingly revisits the "gothic" terrain surveyed in such earlier volumes as Night-Side (1977) and Haunted (1994). Read full book review >

MY HEART LAID BARE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 1, 1998

Oates's 28th novel, another installment in the "Gothic Quintet" that includes such energetic faux romances as Bellefleur (1980) and Mysteries of Winterthurn (1984), is one of her most inventive and entertaining yet. Read full book review >

MAN CRAZY by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 8, 1997

Oates's 27th novel, following fast on the heels of last year's highly praised We Were the Mulvaneys, revisits the depressed upstate New York environs of her earliest (and perhaps most typical) fiction. Read full book review >

TALES OF H.P. LOVECRAFT by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

"But even without it this attractive volume offers a fine chance to sample Lovecraft's ghoulish pleasures."
A collection of ten prototypical stories by Lovecraft (1890-1937), the influential myth-and monster-maker of Providence, Rhode Island, whose extravagantly gothic tales have spawned and inspired such latterday disciples as Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell. Read full book review >
AMERICAN GOTHIC TALES by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Dec. 1, 1996

"On balance, an entertaining and welcome collection, one of the more pleasing products of Oates's ceaseless energies."
A generous anthology of 46 stories, written between the late-18th century and the present, representing the genre characterized by editor Oates (in her Introduction) as "the surreal, raised to the level of poetry." Read full book review >
WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 18, 1996

This wrenching saga, set in the fictional upstate New York town of Mount Ephraim, is one of the protean Oates's most skillful dramatizations of family unhappiness: A big, involving novel on a par with such successes as Them (1969), Bellefleur (1980), and What I Lived For (1994). Read full book review >

FIRST LOVE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 9, 1996

"Oates at her best—and a happy reminder that she remains one of our foremost chroniclers of childhood's awakening and woman's fate."
Oates's zillionth novel (or, more properly, long story) once again explores the familiar territories of rural upstate New York and endangered preadolescence with a concentrated intensity that earns it a place alongside her superb (and underrated) novella I Lock My Door Upon Myself (1990). Read full book review >
WILL YOU ALWAYS LOVE ME? by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 12, 1996

"Oates's reputation—to say nothing of her readers—would be better served by a carefully chosen Selected Stories showcasing her best work of the past 30-plus years, which isn't much more than a faint memory flickering throughout this deeply disappointing volume."
A nondescript and intermittently tedious collection of 22 stories: the last two or three years' worth from the protean Oates, who seems here to be reworking with minimal variations materials she has used far too many times before. Read full book review >
ZOMBIE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 5, 1995

Oates (What I Live For, 1994, etc.) is at her most Grand Guignol in this searing study of a psychopathic killer. Quentin P___, son of the distinguished philosopher/physicist of Mt. Read full book review >

WHAT I LIVED FOR by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

"This question drives Oates's dazzling novel, brilliant both stylistically and in its depiction of a man running desperately for his life."
A pulsating portrait of the American fin-de-siecle, as immediate and unsettling as your morning newspaper, but more compulsively readable. Read full book review >
HAUNTED by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 10, 1994

Surging intensity floods nearly every page of Oates's 18th hardcover collection (Where Is Here?, 1992, etc. etc.), these devoted to explorations of the grotesque. It's not as if Oates needs the fantastic to release her imagination: even in her calmer or more domestic outings she baits steel springs for snapping the reader's neckbones. Read full book review >

WHERE IS HERE? by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

"Overall: an enthralling, varied, and fascinating collection."
Fragments of whispered lust and longing fade in and out like voices on a shortwave radio in Oates' newest collection of stories, most published previously (Michigan Quarterly, Omni, The Massachusetts Review, etc.) and some less than a page long. Read full book review >
BLACK WATER by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 8, 1992

"One may question whether yet another fictional account, no matter how brief and evocative, of this infamous accident is really worthwhile—though dates fans (and there are many) won't be disappointed."
Oates's latest is an impassioned re-creation of the tragedy at Chappaquiddick—with names withheld and the date moved to the current, post-Reagan era. Read full book review >
THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 1991 by Joyce Carol Oates
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Oct. 29, 1991

"Overall, though, not the essay's finest outing."
Oates, in her introduction, defines the essay, a  la Randall Jarrell, as "prose works of certain lengths that have many more things right about them than wrong" Montaigne, Hazlitt, Mandelstam would roll in their graves! Read full book review >
THE RISE OF LIFE ON EARTH by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 30, 1991

"A grim tale—little more than a character sketch—and not among Oates's more memorable accomplishments."
A battered child grows up to become a homicidal nurse's aide—in this depressing, minor addition to Oates's oeuvre. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1990

"Oates provides Khnopff's haunting work of art, to be featured on the cover, with an eloquent voice in this breathless, shadowy tale."
Inspired by a painting of the same title by Belgian artist Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)—and the first in a series of such art-inspired fictions planned by Ecco—Oates's slim (112-page) new novella tells of an interracial love affair in early 20th-century rural New York—and its mysterious, tragic consequences. Read full book review >
THE ASSIGNATION by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1988

"Vintage Oates—always interesting, though not always pleasant."
Short, sharp shots (many of them aimed at sensuality and love) from the master of moody foreboding. Read full book review >
ON BOXING by Joyce Carol Oates
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS
Released: March 6, 1987

"The reader by a TKO."
Oates loves boxing, especially the sight of wounded fighters, which she calls "cruelly beautiful." Read full book review >
RAVEN'S WING by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 23, 1986

"For Oates fans with strong stomachs."
Individually, the 18 dark and ominous stories collected here are impressive: in each one, the smooth surface of an ordinary life is disrupted by some somber shape (like a raven's wing) that at first appears to arrive from elsewhere but soon is seen to have been buried in the life all along. Read full book review >
MARYA by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 24, 1985

"In the end, when Marya, now 35, feels secure enough in her identity to contact her lost mother, the reader admires the novel's effort at closure and wants to care—but doesn't."
Oates' "most personal" novel, as her publisher calls it, is also her smallest in scale. Read full book review >
LAST DAYS by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 22, 1984

"A few real stories, then, but mostly skippable Oates trivia."
Oates' stories, often so unwieldy in their excess length, can and do occasionally mold to a successful shape: the story that's told from far back, for example, the tale that summarily telescopes an entire life. Read full book review >
SOLSTICE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 23, 1984

"Mildly intriguing at the start, then increasingly murky and tiresome."
In her early fiction, Oates often displayed a sharp talent for the texture and rhythm of psychological obsession—but this study of the feverish friendship between two women is unconvincing, thin and artificial, from start to finish. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1983

"Unusually strong on female representation; otherwise—disappointing."
Especially in contrast to Stephen Berg's comparable anthology, In Praise of What Persists (p. 216), this is an unimpressive gathering of essays and interviews—a few of which don't even provide what's promised in the title and subtitle. Read full book review >
THE PROFANE ART by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 26, 1983

"For the Bellow and Updike reviews (and a good piece on the virtues of failure), then, the book has value; the rest is tight-spirited and anxious work of no great grace."
It isn't surprising that Oates' criticism lacks in large part the same quality unavailable in her fiction; shapeliness. Read full book review >
MYSTERIES OF WINTERTHURN by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 25, 1983

Another verbose quasi-period concoction from the alarmingly prolific Oates—with little of the wit and thematic edge that made A Bloodsmoor Romance a pointed (if labored) diversion. Read full book review >
A BLOODSMOOR ROMANCE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 22, 1982

Oates did her morbid, verbose thing with The Great American Family Saga in Bellefleur (1980). Read full book review >
ANGEL OF LIGHT by Joyce Carol Oates
Released: Aug. 17, 1981

"But once again it seems as if Oates catches a glimpse of a thematic construct, then throws words at it from all directions—with blurry, inflated, and uninvolving results."
Thanks to a fairly conventional thriller format, Oates' newest attempt to make feverish myth out of supposed American prototypes is far more manageable—if no more successful—than the rambling excesses of Bellefleur: it's a Washington, D.C. retelling of Aeschylus' Oresteia which tries, vaguely, to hook up the themes of personal betrayal and revenge with the politics of treason and terrorism. Read full book review >
CONTRARIES by Joyce Carol Oates
Released: April 23, 1981

"These essays are hardly graceful, then; but they have admirable, microscopic commitment, which is a pleasure all of itself."
As usual for Oates in whatever form she's working, these seven essays are a mixed bag. Read full book review >
BELLEFLEUR by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 11, 1980

"As always, some moody and grimly ghoulish leaps of imagination—but, overall, a great pudding of a book lacking in shape, flavor, and substance."
American family saga, Oates style—which means a dark household full of lust, obsessions, visions, ghosts, murders, disappearances, grotesques, mystical animals, religious conversions. . . and page after page of roiling, lazily ornate Oates prose. Read full book review >
SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 20, 1980

"But, on balance, it's a disappointing collection from a gifted, epically erratic writer."
Five stories and a novella—and, as Oates readers know, much charitable patience is needed in order not to fold in and will before Oates' pawkiness, her over-cementing of points, her long stretches of emptily elaborate prose. Read full book review >
THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1979 by Shannon Ravenel
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1979

"A largely drab round-up, then, with the few, best stories utterly overshadowing the lesser efforts."
The favorites finish first this time out: Bellow's roistering "A Silver Dish," Barthelme's "The New Music," a section from Malamud's Dubin's Lives, Styron's "Shadrach," and Singer's "A Party in Miami Beach." Read full book review >
UNHOLY LOVES by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1979

"A mixed bag of Oates, then—insightful and sharp when it's content to view the academics with a satiric curl of the lip, but characteristically morbid-shallow when trying to reach into their very souls."
Oates has done time in academia, and the best part of this erratic novel—set among literary faculty at an upstate N.Y. college—are her descriptions, verging on dark farce, of professorial vanities, rivalries, insecurities, and petty tactics: much of the book involves a handful of faculty parties, and Oates efficiently captures the spilled drinks, bored wives, snide put-downs, labored jokes, oblique namecallings, faux pas, and hurt egos that characterize such sloshy gatherings. Read full book review >
SON OF THE MORNING by Joyce Carol Oates
Released: July 28, 1978

Religious hysteria provides the focus for one of Oates' least powerful, most monotonic and glutinous explorations of the fevered mind. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1978

"Mostly it's toneless, jerry-built, and obvious poetry without much flavor one way or another."
The depressed, droning naturalism that will sometimes give her prose fiction a stubborn power does almost nothing for Oates' poetry. Read full book review >
NIGHT-SIDE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 7, 1977

"But most of these tales lure you in, feeding you their secrets stingily, and occasionally forcing a gasp or a sigh of real empathy for minds in disarray."
Only with the title story—the 1887 journal of a psychic researcher whose most skeptical colleague fatally embraces spiritualism—does "Night-Side" suggest the occult; elsewhere it signifies the dark side of earthly lives: the quicksandy borders of madness, the fear of death, the pressure-cooker of loneliness, secret sexualities, hostilities, fantasies. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1975

"A poet who believes it is "always the same day" will have, after the first day, nothing left to say."
The most prolific writer to win the National Book Award strikes out once again, this time with a volume of poetry. Read full book review >
THE ASSASSINS by Joyce Carol Oates
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Oct. 24, 1975

"But then there is the absolute integrity of Oates' bleak vision and an occasional efficient scene of stark horror—the unique powers of this irritating and demanding writer cannot be altogether dismissed."
Again Oates penetrates the dead center of consciousness immobilized by magnetically opposed imperatives—need and impotence, the individual and the "flow" of God, love and murder. Read full book review >
Released: June 30, 1975

"These sometimes oblique, often sharp barbs of terror are just that and no more."
Miss Oates announces in her Afterword that these stories "came out of nowhere" between writing bouts with Wonderland (1970). Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1974

"All so mysterious, yet unaffecting as soap opera, pre-fab with true-to-realism names, sets and props, slightly melodramatic — but the only tragedy here is the author's decreasing talent."
No one can fail to be impressed by Joyce Carol Oates' prolificacy. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1974

            Oates' view of art as mystic experience produces a rigid, constrictive framework for analysis that discriminates against individualism, personality, and the romantic tradition.  "Art," she contends, "is the sacralizing of its subject," and therefore iconoclasm may be perceived as failure, limitation, or even neurosis.  Much of contemporary poetry and fiction in her opinion is "fixated…upon the childhood fears of annihilation, persecution, the helplessness we have all experienced…"  So much for Robbe-Grillet, Pynchon, Barthelme, Purdy, Barth.  And so much for Sylvia Plath who is "more honest than we would like" anyway.  Alternatively, we have this somewhat overwritten, over-sacralized Lawrentian ideal:  "it was his life's pilgrimage to break through the confines of the static, self-consuming self in order to experience the unfathomable power that transcended his own knowledge of himself."  The nine essays in this collection, previously published in prestigious literary journals, also include rather pedestrian commentaries on the later James and Virginia Woolf, Beckett's trilogy, Flannery O'Connor's Catholicism, Norman Mailer's "energetic Manichaenism" (which "forbids a higher art").  Oates' last word is on "Kafka's Paradise" - a Taoistic conception of that tortured genius as not a tragic but a religious writer, non-egoistic and beyond Good and Evil.  As criticism, this is windy sermonizing at the expense of the integrity of art, artist, and the creative process.

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DO WITH ME WHAT YOU WILL by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 6, 1973

"But in spite of all the anti-gravitational matter, you believe — a tribute to one author who can create a coherent world from, the walking specters of the spirit."
Once again Miss Oates is concerned with crime and punishment, the innocent murderer and the guilty victim (the title is a cruel irony). Read full book review >
MARRIAGES AND INFIDELITIES by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 6, 1972

"Commanding even if a few stories are only notebook exercises; all press forward into new ground."
A 'plot' is not fiction, as you know, but very real; it is the record of someone's brain, a trail like a snail's trail, sticky and shameful. . . ." Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1972

"Here, however, she moves with brilliance and agility along the edge of impossibilities where "sometimes we see a cloud that's dragonish," and endure Hamlet's bad dreams bounded in a nutshell."
In nine extraordinary explications — from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida to Ionesco's Dance of Death — Miss Oates investigates tragedy as literary form. Read full book review >
WONDERLAND by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 6, 1971

"Not as accessible as Them (1969) but, as always, significant."
Was there a universe of broken people, flung out of their orbits but still living. . . ?" Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 6, 1970

These rich, intent stories by the winner of the National Book Award have the supra-reality of the bleak hours before dawn as Miss Oates' characters, taut with awareness, suffer the last turn on the wheel of love. Read full book review >
EXPENSIVE PEOPLE by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 23, 1968

"Searing, unpleasant, important."
With last year's A Garden of Earthly Delights, Miss Oates established herself as a writer of stature, and this terrifying novel, while falling back on some too easy shock values, is exemplary in commitment and technique. Read full book review >
UPON THE SWEEPING FLOOD AND OTHER STORIES by Joyce Carol Oates
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 15, 1966

"An on-going talent— idling."
A second (By the North Gate- 1963) collection of short stories by the talented young "Southern" writer is, in a way, a disappointment, attenuating and accentuating as it does one of the main failings of the genre which at this point has become The Method. Read full book review >