Last Friday, the PI mentioned in its preview of this event that author Joyce Carol Oates is coming to Seattle to promote her 36th novel, The Gravedigger's Daugher. While 36 novels is certainly an impressive feat, it does not take into account eleven other novels written under pseudonyms. Also add 30 collections of short stories, eight books of poetry and another eleven non-fiction books. Somehow she finds time to write thoughtful criticism for the New York Review of Books. There is no major author anywhere near as prolific as Oates.
She's hardly a hack, either. She has won the National Book Award and been nominated for 3 Pulitzer Prizes. There is even a gargoyle atop the Redmond Library in her likeness. Her short story "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?" remains one of the most chilling and powerful stories, even after it was first published over 40 years ago. It is not an easy story to read, but it is equally difficult not to.
Another thing that makes Oates such an impressive writer is her ability to write on nearly any subject. Some of her subjects include Mike Tyson, Bob Dylan (to whom she dedicated "Where Are You Going?" to) and nearly every major piece of literature over the past few centuries. She is, however, particularly drawn to violence and writes of it unflinchingly. Her biggest strength as a writer is the empathy and vulnerability she shows for the central characters in her stories.
After writing the pervious three paragraphs, it shouldn't come as a surprise to say that I'm a huge fan of her writing. She is one of my two favorite living American authors (Joan Didion is the other). The chance of seeing Oates in the auditorium of the gorgeous Seattle Public Library is a very exciting prospect. I took the day off from work to ensure I wouldn't miss it.