Writer Joyce Carol Oates, author of more than sixty books and one of the most esteemed living American writers, will be visiting the Mississippi coast in July, signing her two newest publications at Pass Books.
- by Carole McKellar
Born in 1938, Oates published her first book in 1962. She taught creative writing at Princeton University from 1978 until she retired in 2014. Oates has won awards for her writing, including the National Book Award for “them” in 1969, two O. Henry Awards, and the National Humanities Medal. Her novels and story collections were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize five times.
Beautiful Days, published this year, consists of eleven stories. All of the stories previously appeared in respected periodicals but never appeared together. The subject matter is diverse including stories of extramarital affairs and suicide alongside fantasy.
“Les Beaux Jours” is about a vulnerable girl desperate for the love of her absent father. She is drawn into a Balthus painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The subject imagines herself a prisoner inside the painting and writes a letter to her father begging him to rescue her from the cruelties imposed by the Master.
In “Undocumented Alien” a Nigerian student is saved from deportation by participating in a classified research project. A chip implanted in his brain adversely affects his cognitive function and drives him to madness. This chilling story describes a young man fighting to maintain his humanity.
Although the eleven stories are disturbing and generally dark in tone, I liked this collection. Oates is a skilled and imaginative writer.
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense is on my nightstand, and I look forward to reading the six creepy tales within. The first story, “The Woman in the Window,” is a reimagining of Edward Hopper’s painting, ’11 A.M., 1926,’ which features a woman sitting in an apartment window naked except for high heels. That painting is on the front cover of “Beautiful Days.”
At eighty years old, Joyce Carol Oates continues to earn the respect of readers and writers alike. She avoids celebrity and has cultivated a reputation for hard work and professionalism. Oates is regularly discussed as a strong contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. I look forward to meeting Ms. Oates at Pass Books and consider it an honor for the coast to have such a literary icon visit.