Joyce Carol Oates

“Writing is like shaping some clay. It’s the act of shaping it that’s sort of fascinating. You don’t think, is this going to be just another one of my heads that I’ve done already, will it be a failure, will I hate it? You don’t have to think of those questions because the future isn’t there yet.”

-Joyce Carol Oates, episode 288 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Last summer, we traveled to Princeton, New Jersey to sit with legendary writer Joyce Carol Oates. The talk begins with her daily routine, from writing to revision (6:34), the real-life events that inspired her recent novel, Babysitter (9:09), and why she’s fascinated with examining violence in her work (14:06). Then, we walk through Oates’ early years: growing up on a farm (17:45), her literary influences (22:22), and the lasting relationship she formed with libraries (27:01).

On the back-half, Joyce revisits a 1977 journal entry on writing (28:30), how she grapples with criticism (31:20) and her complex relationship to Twitter (33:20). To close, we sit with love (40:05), loss (43:40), and why, at age eighty-four, she continues to tell new stories (50:22).

Original illustration by Krishna ShenoiReference image by Dustin Cohen.

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