“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).
- Order Joyce’s new book, Zero-Sum: Stories.
- Find the new paperback of her novel, Babysitter.
- Subscribe to her Substack.
- Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
- For more conversations, hear our talks with George Saunders, Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ocean Vuong, Jennifer Egan, and Nikki Giovanni.
- Order your Talk Easy mug in cream and navy or our vinyl record with Fran Lebowitz.
Original illustration by Krishna Shenoi. Reference image by Dustin Cohen.