Joyce Carol Oates: “I Will Write No More!”

oates.jpgProlific writer Joyce Carol Oates will write no further stories or books. Not so much a smidgen of prose. “I’ve had a good run,” said Oates. “It’s time to let the scholars sift through my work.” Oates has had some difficulties adjusting to this new state of being, but she figures that Bill Vollmann and T.C. Boyle can take up the slack.

“American literature has always had its share of prolific writers,” said Oates. “I felt that it was time to hang up the boots and give my wrists a rest.”


  1. Oh, but whatever will the New York Times Book Review find to review now that JCO is out of the came? Seems they run a half-to-full-page review of one of her books at least twice a year.

  2. My mother’s been telling me to give my wrists a rest for years. “You’ll go blind!” Who knew JCO was not the mistress of her domain? Not sure I get the boots reference, though–she must be extremely flexible.

  3. I have just read with great interest Oates’s fine essay in Narrative on mentors, with her poignant remarks on the death of her good friend and author John Gardener. I was still living in Buffalo, New York at the time Gardner was killed on his motorcycle, and I went to his funeral in Batavia, a few miles away.
    My husband had just died and I had not gone to his funeral. In fact there was no funeral at all to go to for I was unable to bear the thought of his being gone,of seeing him dead. Somehow going to John Gardner’s funeral would in a way make up for my lack of responsibility to my own husband. The mind under pain acts in funny ways at times.
    I arrived early. The church was empty and for a long time I thought I was going to be the only one present. Then they brought in the coffin. Placed it among the flowers. I did not even know the man inside that coffin except for his novel, Nickel Mountain, and because he had been an early supporter of one Joyce Carol Oates, a writer I had admired for ten years and still admire. “She makes the rest of us look like we should have never left the farm,” he said.
    I saw him once on television, wearing a sweater, his neon white hair flowing. He was outraged about the Vietnam War and how America was involved in the torture business, actually doing the world’s greatest business in the line of exporting torture instruments. In those days the University of Buffalo campus was full of students rioting against the draft, kids from New York city mostly, slinging bricks and bottles at the cops and banks. Now there is no draft, the mere suggestion of reinstituting one results in a sordid political hanging, i.e. Charles Wrangle, who now knows if he wants to draft anyone, he better have a clean nose . College kids are safe. The jobless , the poor from the ghettos, fight and kill the Arabs for Israel, and that’s all right with those who once claimed to hate war, all wars.
    Gardner on television kept pushing up the sleeves of his sweater, tossing his hair. I think that was on Dick Cavett, a man who later interviewed Oates. One could tell he had never read her. He kept looking at his notes to get titles straight.
    She was something new to Cavett, and he ventured in his sometime flippant style that maybe she could put him in one of her stories. Immediately she responded, “Yes. Maybe I’ll make you a woman.”(Laughter off stage). Cavett’s head shot around. Yes, here was someone quite new to him.
    I was puzzled and remain puzzled why some in the literary establishment were and are reluctant to praise Oates, and how she in her goodness ( and success) has let it be. A Harvard professor said of her work, “If this is American literature, it’s everything that’s negative about America!” As if the stories in the New Yorker were everything that’s positive.
    No doubt the macho minds around felt themselves under a strange challenge. Was some “girl” showing them up? She could no longer be ignored, so how to get her? What to call her? How about Joyce Carol Mush…yeah, make her cry. However, Ms Oates never acted as if literature were a boys against the girls thing, that was left to the feminists, activists like the brilliant Elizabeth Fox Genevese who debated James Dickey so hilariously well.
    In literature that game played itself out in brutal nastiness long ago when Thackery called Charlotte Bronte an ulgy , tubercular spinster with several teeth missing, who would gladly give up all her fame to be half as beautiful as his lady friends who sat all day knitting hand bags. Why fight this way? Who cares? Charlotte kept her fame. Thackery’s wans. And does not he, Charlotte Bronte and the ladies now all look the same?
    Anyone who has read Oates’ comments on James Dickey’s passionate life (deeper, deeper into the flesh) will see how she holds herself to the writer’s art , touching on the man himself only as he relates to his art as when she called Norman Mailer “ An American Son,” knowing of course that his mouthy , somersaulting drunks were rooted in an Out Group Neurosis with an impossible longing to be Hemingway, Castro, James– Rougher than a night in a south Alabama jailhouse—Dickey, and Mailer all at once. Yet, if he ever mentioned her in public I never caught it, although I am sure he must have.

    Jo Neace Krause, Nunnelly, Tennessee

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