Joyce Carol Oates thinks you should get a life, is on suicide watch

Posted by @ 10:58 am on February 27th, 2009

jcoRandom Undergrad Question-Asker: I was wondering what you think of blogging?

Joyce Carol Oates: Blogging? What I think of blogging?

RUQA: Um, yeah.

JCO: Well I think that anyone who’s worried about their blogging is wasting their time. Next question?

Joyce Carol Oates came and did a lecture here on Monday; she stared out telling us how she had once been asked to do a biography of Alfred Hitchcock, but all she could manage to write about him was a pathology since he was  such an asshole. Then someone asked her to write a biography of Marilyn Monroe, but she wrote a 1400 page novel instead. Then someone asked her to write a biography of Ernest Hemingway, but she decided it would be better to write a short story about his suicide. She read this story to us, but before she did she explained that she “identified with this story so much,” more than almost anything else she’s written. 

The story was incredibly gruesome. She put the gunshot in slow motion and gave us vivid descriptions of brain and skull and exploded tissue. All the blood-soaked stuff was pretty shocking coming from a seventy-year-old woman who looks as meek as an underfed house cat.

After the story she answered more questions and woe be it to the people who didn’t think through their inquiries. Somehow there were a ton of eager-beaver undergrads at this lecture and they all wanted a piece of JCO. One girl made the mistake of asking her to explain some imagery from a story she’d read

RUQA 2: Like, for instance, you have a story where a girl is climbing up a tower and the people are watching the girl and the girl is climbing…

JCO: I wrote this?

RUQA2: Yeah, and like there are the people below seeing her climb and then she falls

JCO: You want me to explain this?

RUQA2: …

JCO: Next question?

It was pretty great. Another girl said that she had read a novella about Edgar Allen Poe but when Oates asked her what “warm body”  she gave to Poe to fall in love with the girl thought that it was a dog.

JCO: A dog?! I didn’t write about Edgar Allen Poe falling in love with a dog! I’m from Princeton! We don’t write about DOGS! It was a mer-woman with one eye. Get it straight!

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