JOYCE CAROL Oates, one of the most distinguished American novelists of the last 50 years will be reading at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature on Saturday April 24.
Oates was born in 1938 and grew up in the working-class farming community of Millersport, New York. She became interested in reading at an early age and was given Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as present by her paternal grandmother, Blanche Woodside (whose life would inspire Oates’ 2007 novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter ).
“This was love at first sight!” she said of the experience and from there she would later devour the works of William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, and the Brontës, and their “influences remain very deep”.
Blanche was encouraging of her grand-daughter’s talents and gave her a typewriter which encouraged the 14-year-old Oates to write. She later went to Syracuse University and at 19 won the college short story contest.
She published her first novel With Shuddering Fall in 1964. In 1966, she published Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? a short story dedicated to Bob Dylan and written after listening to his song ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’. She concluded the decade with the acclaimed them (1969 ), which won the National Book Award in 1970.
Since then she has published an average of two books a year. Frequent topics in her work include rural poverty, violence, sexual abuse, class tensions, desire for power, feminism, female childhood, and adolescence. She also writes horror stories and has written on sport as well in On Boxing (1987 ).
She continues to enjoy artistic and commercial success as a novelist with We Were The Mulvaneys becoming a best-seller after being selected by Oprah’s Book Club in 2001.
With her late husband Raymond J Smith she founded The Ontario Review, a literary magazine, and in 1980, the Ontario Review Books, an independent publishing house.
Oates acknowledges that she is best known for Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? and when asked what novel she would like a first-time Oates reader to read, she suggested them and Blonde (2000 ).
The reading takes place in the Town Hall Theatre on 1pm. Also reading on the night will be James Lasdun. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.