A tribute to the brilliant craftsmanship of one of our most distinguished writers, providing valuable insight into her inspiration and her method
Joyce Carol Oates is widely regarded as one of America's greatest contemporary literary figures. Having written in a number of genres -- prose, poetry, personal and critical essays, as well as plays -- she is an artist ideally suited to answer essential questions about what makes a story striking, a novel come alive, a writer an artist as well as a craftsman.
In The Faith of a Writer, Oates discusses the subjects most important to the narrative craft, touching on topics such as inspiration, memory, self-criticism, and "the unique power of the unconscious." On a more personal note, she speaks of childhood inspirations, offers advice to young writers, and discusses the wildly varying states of mind of a writer at work. Oates also pays homage to those she calls her "significant predecessors" and discusses the importance of reading in the life of a writer.
Oates claims, "Inspiration and energy and even genius are rarely enough to make 'art': for prose fiction is also a craft, and craft must be learned, whether by accident or design." In fourteen succinct chapters, The Faith of a Writer provides valuable lessons on how language, ideas, and experience are assembled to create art.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.From Publishers Weekly:
In 12 short thematic essays and an interview, all previously published, the hyper-prolific author of novels (Blonde), story collections (Faithless), plays (In Darkest America) and poems (Tenderness) examines the writing life, aiming to focus on "the process of writing more than the uneasy, uncertain position of being a writer." Oates advises young writers to read widely, takes a nostalgic glance back at childhood influences, waxes poetic on the joys of running and its relation to writing, and tackles the inner trajectories of the creative process. The essays are peppered with anecdotes concerning writers' trials, doubts and influences; these well-selected snippets form the most enjoyable and illuminating aspect of the book. If Oates's own insights don't always live up to the wit and beauty of such quoted authors as T.S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence, it may be because she gives herself comparatively little room to wrestle with such broad concepts as inspiration and failure. Oates's suggestion that writers as a breed apart may irritate the "ordinary reader" she refers to (whom, she suggests, might not know that "no story writes itself") and may even make writers uncomfortable (to write, she says, is to "invite angry censure from those who don't write, or who don't write in quite the way you do....Art by its nature is a transgressive act, and artists must accept being punished for it"). But Oates obviously understands the faith that writing, that "juncture of private vision and the wish to create a communal, public vision" takes, and young writers especially may find words of wisdom here.
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