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Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof 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 is the author of the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys (Dutton, 1996), Blonde (Ecco, 2000), The Falls (Ecco, 2004), The Gravedigger’s Daughter (Ecco, 2007), The Accursed (Ecco, 2013), as well as the forthcoming novel My Life as a Rat (Ecco, 2019). 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.


The Cold

Summer 2019 | Fiction

When it began, I do not know. If I kept a journal or a diary, as some of you do, perhaps then I would know. But I don’t, and so I don’t. When the cold began to pursue me.

The Jesters

Summer 2013 | Fiction

They had never seen these neighbors. Whoever lived on the far side of the wooded area were strangers to them. There was no occasion for the husband and the wife to drive on West Crescent Drive, which wasn’t easily accessible from the cul-​de-​sac at the end of East Crescent Drive, where they lived: This would involve a circuitous twisting route to Juniper Road, which traversed the rural-​suburban “gated community” called Crescent Lake Farms, an approximate half mile north on that road, and then a turn into the interior of the development and, by way of smaller, curving roads, onto West Crescent Drive.

A Book of Martyrs

Fall 2012 | Fiction

The vow was unspoken between them: Once started on their drive into a more northerly part of the state, once embarked upon this journey, they could not turn back.


Writers on Writers | Fiction

So lonely! Shyly they glanced at each other across the dining room table in whose polished cherrywood surface candle flames shimmered like dimly recalled dreams. One said, “We should purchase a RepliLuxe,” as if only now thinking of it, and the other said quickly, “RepliLuxes are too expensive, and you hear how they don’t survive the first year.”

“Not all! Only—”

“As of last week, it was thirty-one percent.”



Fall 2005 | Fiction

She was very young then. It had to be 1974 because she was in second grade at Buhr Elementary School, which was the faded-red-brick building set back from the busy street; she has forgotten the name of the street and much of her life at that time, but she remembers the school, she remembers a teacher who was kind to her, she remembers Rock Basin Park, where the child was smothered.

So Help Me God

Winter 2005 | Fiction

Phone rings. My cousin Andrea answers. It's a pelting-rain weekday evening last April, just past 7 p.m. and dark as midnight.


The Birthday Celebration

Winter 1980 | Fiction

he day Yolande ran away from home, never to return— never to return to Bellefleur Manor—was also the day of Germaine's first birthday. But was there any connection between the two events. . . .?

The Loss

Autumn 1981 | Poetry

The loss you can't remember.
Crumbling walls, the mind's stupor.
The haze at the horizon, the loss
indistinct, the stammered words
repeating themselves.
You can't remember.


The Stone Well

Summer 1997 | Criticism

Six feet from the rim the old vertigo begins.
In the tall grass flattened and gone to seed.
In the white glare of the October sun.

Foster Home

When we first saw Mary Miles, I will say that our hearts went out to her—you always seem to know, in the very first instant, when a person, particularly a child, is going to mean something special to you. Not that Mary Miles was a child exactly, being eleven years old.


Lost Creek

Spring 1987 | Criticism

That shallow fast-running

  creek. White
rapids. The mud-colored
  water breaking
in anger brittle as


Romance and Anti-Romance: From Bronte’s Jane Eyre to Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea

Winter 1985 | Essays

Jean Rhys's haunting and hallucinatory prose poem of a novel, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), boldly tells the story— authentic, intimate, and unsparing, because first-person confession—of Mrs. Bertha Rochester, the doomed madwoman of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Yet Rhys's novel is more than a remarkably inspired tour de force, a modernist revision of a great Victorian classic: it is an attempt to evoke, by means of a highly compressed and elliptical poetic language, the authentic experience of madness—more precisely, of being driven into madness; and it is a brilliantly sustained anti-romance, a reverse mirror image of Jane Eyre's and Rochester's England.

The Masquers

Summer 1984 | Criticism

I am lying, you say hesitantly, tasting
the thin syllables, gauging their feathery weight
in the air: chill fine whining notes.