Joyce Carol Oates, the prolific novelist-cum-social media arsonist, has once again set Twitter on fire with a characteristically semi-inscrutable comment on autofiction.
“strange to have come of age reading great novels of ambition, substance, [and] imagination (Dostoyevsky, Woolf, Joyce, Faulkner) [and] now find yourself praised [and] acclaimed for wan little husks of ‘auto fiction’ with space between paragraphs to make the book seem longer…” Oates tweeted on Tuesday.
strange to have come of age reading great novels of ambition, substance, imagination (Dostoyevsky, Woolf, Joyce, Faulkner) now find yourself praised acclaimed for wan little husks of "auto fiction" with space between paragraphs to make the book seem longer...— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) March 16, 2021
Autofiction, for the uninitiated, is a term used to describe fiction that’s heavily autobiographical, such as Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? and Ben Lerner’s 10:04. As for “wan little husks,” it’s either the name of a largely forgotten ’80s post-punk band or a trademark Oates coinage.
Oates has sent Twitter into a frenzy before, most recently by posting a horrifying picture of a rash on her foot. (Google it if you must, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Her latest tweet garnered a rash (forgive the wan little pun) of responses. “Gonna start a lit journal that only publishes wan little husks,” tweeted D.T. Robbins.
And author Jenn Shapland weighed in, writing, “Maybe if someone's generation hadn't gouged the social safety net we wouldn't all be such wan little husks today.”
Maybe if someone's generation hadn't gouged the social safety net we wouldn't all be such wan little husks today.— Jenn Shapland (@jennshapland) March 16, 2021
As of Wednesday afternoon, Oates hadn’t acknowledged the reaction to her tweet, but you might be able to ask her this weekend, when she’s scheduled to work the merch table at the Wan Little Husks reunion show at Mill Hill Saloon in Trenton, New Jersey. Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Rock is opening.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.