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Della

Joyce Carol Oates

I've just been listening to Radio4's 'Woman Hour' and a discussion on Joyce Carol Oates.  I have wanted to read her for years and years, but as yet she hasn't even got to my TBR pile (actually, it is a TBR room Rolling Eyes )!!!
How do my fellow Big Readers value Joyce Carol Oates?
And which one of her books (novels/short stories) should enter my TBR room first?
Melony

I've never read her.  For some reason, she has never seemed tempting or appealing.  But, don't let that put you off - I have been trying to get interested in To the Lighthouse and can't seem to get into it, either.  Maybe some others have an opinion of Oates.
bookfreak

I have read several books by JCO, and she is a favourite author of mine.
She usually writes about deep emotion in a clear and straightforward style and her speciality is dysfunctional middle-class American families.   Perhaps the novel I enjoyed most is We Were The Mulvaneys but I also recommend The Tattoed Girl, Rape: a love story, The Gravedigger's Daughter, You Must Remember This and Blonde, the inner life of Marilyn Monroe.
I think the only one I did not like, and in fact never finished, was The Falls,where I was just not interested in the characters.

At the present time I am half way through my sister, my love which is a novel having much in common with the awful JonBenet Ramsey case of the '60s.  The narrator is the brother of a 6yr old girl who was murdered, and himself a suspect.   He writes as a young man looking back on the whole episode and retelling (unreliably?) what was happening at the time.   I am actually finding this 562-page book overlong and repetitive but gripping me nontheless.  The style is more complicated than other novels by JCO and full of asides, letters, notes and different fonts;  all of which I find annoying.  It's as though JCO is experimenting with a new style...one which I do not appreciate.
Della

Thanks, bookfreak!  I'll look out for the titles you recommended in charity shops and at the library.
J.C. Oates was mentioned as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature if she were a man.  That's food for thought, isn't it?  But also a discussion in a different forum, perhaps...
Green Jay

I have read a number of books by JCO but strangely none of the ones Bookfreak has. I understand that We Were The Mulvaneys is one of her most admired books, and it's on my to-be-aquired list.

A long time ago I read several of her books but can't recall which, then I sort of re-found her in the last 5 years. I very much enjoyed Middle Age: A Romance, and Broke Heart Blues. Neither is straightforward to read and they are pretty hefty. Broke Heart Blues has a sort of group narrator but you just have to go with the flow. I can see that if you are not in the right mood they might be too demanding and irritating in the hoops she makes the reader jump through, but they are gripping. I find I really admire her intellect and capacity to take on big themes, plus her sheer stamina as she writes a lot and doesn't repeat herself. I missed the interview on Woman's Hour but there was a very good analysis of her themes in an article in last Saturday's Guardian Review section on the wealth of contemporary US women writers.
Della

Thanks, GreenJay, for your recommendations and for drawing my attention to the article in Guardian which I've just read, with great interest.  Actually, it was Elaine Showalter who was interviewed in Woman's Hour.  A very interesting interview and a very interesting article, indeed!

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