Joyce Carol Oates

February 23, 2011


I was reading a review of a Joyce Carol Oates memoir. It was a memoir that was concerned with the death of her husband. I remember the couple from college. (University of Windsor ) She was a odd looking duck. Frail, dressed up (it seemed like she was always going to some event), rather unattractive as I recall, paranoid. (There were many tales about her fear of students. In one story she was sent a pizza by an admiring student. She had the pizza sent down to the chemistry lab and tested for poison.). Ms. Oates never, as I recall, participated in any anti-war demonstrations. When the theology department was occupied over the issue of a professor’s dismissal without cause, she was no where in sight. A friend of mine took a course with her and loved it. I thought that I might take her couse the next semester even though I was majoring in philosophy not English at the time. I read her book “Them” that won the National Book Award. I don’t know what I expected. As I recall, I found the writing boring and the story uninteresting. I probably wasn’t very fair in my assessment. I just couldn’t get over the feeling that a white woman in her early 30’s, a professor at a Canadian university, would have no idea what it was like to live in Detroit as a black person surrounded by drugs, the police, and violence. I thought she was a dilettante of life. (I understand she wrote a book about Marilyn Monroe. That interests me.) Oates reminds me of a professional boxer who has known nothing but the ring, still fighting shadows long after her career is over.

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