Where to begin with Joyce Carol Oates? Thanks

Where to begin with Joyce Carol Oates? Thanks

30 Answers

    • Thanks to your comment I remembered I got a free copy of this and I’m starting it tonight! 😊

  • Her books are very different while all are starkly realistic and painful to one degree or another. You can probably start anywhere. She wrote a memoir following her first husband’s death–that may be a little more “sympathetic” than some of the others. The Book of American Martyrs just about did me in.

    • Me too. It made me miserable and, yet I couldn’t put it down. Sometimes I get angry with JCO for what she stirs up in me!

    • Yeah, I do too. But then I pick up another of her books. She definitely puts me on varied tracks of thinking.

  • Then “The Book of American Martyrs” is where I want to begin with J.C.O.’s body of work. Have never read a single one. Tried one or two back in the mid-70s but didn’t get anywhere. Maybe I was too young?

    • It is a really hard book to read, no matter how you feel about the subject matter. It is also very long. Good luck with it. I’m glad I read it but it packs a wollop and I’ve read many of her books over the years.

  • I’ve read a lot of her books and they really vary. I think We Were The Mulvaneys and Foxfire are the most accessible.

  • To get to ‘know’ Joyce Carol Oates I would start with some of her literary criticism. For example (it might be in The Atlantic but you can google it ) her piece on Flannery O’Connor is fascinating and gives the reader (IMO) a keen insight into the way Oates views the art of short fiction. I personally learn a lot about an author in relation to how they view ‘peers.’ Just for me, I find some of her fiction a bit contrived. Not to say it isn’t downright brilliant. It is.

    • This is an excellent idea. I read We Were the Mulvaneys and was never interested in her after that.

  • Just read The Book of American Martyrs. It was thought provoking but a tough read. I hated We Were The Mulvaneys. Those are the only ones I have read by her.

    • Also hated Mulvaneys. Was tempted to toss it into the recycling bin.

  • You might start with stories, such as her book Lovely, Dark, Deep.

  • “We Were the Mulvaneys”… I absolutely loved it…I am reading “The Book of American Martyrs” right now …really disturbing but now I’m hooked ..she really is a great author…

  • Some of her short stories may be a good place to start. For a novel, We Were The Mulvaneys is an excellent read. Gut wrenching!

  • Thanks for all the hints. Think I’ll look up some criticism by her and take it from there. She seems too important and a influential a writer to pass by

  • Blonde (about Marilyn Monroe), Where are you going, where have you been? (Short story… My favorite)

  • I was in a film adapted from her short story called At the Seminary.

  • I read one of her first novels long ago – about the Detroit riots? I liked “We were the Mulvaneys.” She’s not easy to like as a fiction writer, but a fascinating person who I respect immensely.

  • Some of her books are on offer via Kindle, and ordered a bargain collection of non fiction writing: Uncensored:Views and Reviews

  • She is hit and miss with me. I loved We Were The Mulvaneys, Foxfire Girls and Blonde. I was surprised how much I liked Blonde.

  • I bought We Were the Mulvaneys despite/because of the mixed reviews here.
    Just need about 6 weeks away on holiday to read a wee selection of books I own. I can dream, right?!

  • I would like to suggest “Bellefleur” if you can find it. It is almost a gothic novel, but more literary than that. It has elements of the stream of consciousness that characterizes much of her writing, but that is more clearly delineated between characters and events so is easier to follow. You won’t find happy, tidy endings in her work, but honest, sometimes ugly and raw emotional process. Bellefleur has intriguing characters, some likable, and lots of mystery to keep you going.

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