Wednesday, January 19, 2011
O is for Ouch, Oowie, OMG! No, it's for Oates
The Rogue Speaks:
Well at first I was going to write about the spinal injection I had yesterday to alleviate my severe back pain. It was HORRIBLE! It certainly didn't hurt anywhere near that bad two years ago! It had damn well better work, because I am NEVER having one again. The first time I met the doctor, several years ago, he actually told me that he was not good in social settings--in other words, he has NO BEDSIDE MANNER AT ALL! He comes in, gives the injections, and then he leaves. He doesn't have a chatty bone in his body. What he does have is "Ass Burners Syndrome," because after 24 hours, I can still feel the burning, shooting pain of those needles!!
So anyway, I decided to change my mind and find a really interesting O person to write abou--JOYCE CAROL OATES!
Jouce Carol Oates grew up on her parents' farm just outside Lockport, New York. It was a rural area, and Joyce attended the same one-room school house that her mother had gone to. She was a child of the Great Depression, and times were really hard for farm families. Joyce never complained, though, because she loved the out-of-doors and the beauty of nature in farm country. She was born with an innate love of books and writing, and even though her parents had very little education themselves, they encouraged their daughter's ambitions. When she was 14, her grandmother gave her a typewriter, and she vowed to write "novel after novel" beginning with her high school days and on into college.
Ms. Oates had a brilliant high school and college career. When she was only 19, she won a contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine. Ah, if only we had been so dedicated in college! Personally, I majored in bridge when I was at Georgia State. I eventually settled down, though.
After Ms. Oates graduated from Syracuse University, she went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. Have you ever been there?? I have, because our daughter, Allison, graduated from there. Our son-in-law, Richard, got his PhD from there, and our first granddaughter, Kaitlin, was born in Madison. It is a really cool town!
Anyway, Joyce earned her Master's degree in only one year!! And she also met her future husband, Raymond Smith, there. They got married after three months!! So far, this seems like no more than just some rather mundane facts about her life--not like some of my artists about whom I have written--no wild drinking, no drugs, no unprotected sex that we know of, no serious angst!
In 1962, Joyce and her husband moved to Detroit, just in time for all the turmoil of the 60's. I remember being afraid that we were doomed to die during that time, when Kennedy was president and the Bay of Pigs was going on. Joyce, on the other hand, took this period in our history to really make a name for herself with her novels, and at age 28, her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, was published. Her novel them received the National Book Award.
Joyce and Raymond moved across the river from Detroit to Winsor, Ontario in 1968. While they were there she produced books at the alarming rate of 2 or 3 a year!
This woman hardly had time to eat or sleep! She rapidly became one of the most respected writers in the United States, and she was only in her thirties. When I was in my thirties, I was juggling a job as an import broker, and changing DIAPERS at an alarming rate. There is no comparison here--diapers? books? OMG! My life was soooo boring!!
Joyce and Raymond even started a small press and began publishing a literary magazine, The Ontario Review. They continued publishing until after they moved to Princeton in 1978.
How did she do it? Just how has she managed to produce more than 56 novels, 30 collections of short stories, eight volumes of poetry, plays, essays, and book reviews,and as Yule Brenner said in The King and I, "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera..."
Joyce currently lives in Princeton, New Jersey. She is a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.