That's it for today
That’s everything from Joyce – many thanks to her for spending two hours answering your questions. Her new memoir The Lost Landscape is out this week. For more webchat action, tomorrow we have Duran Duran discussing their new album and anything else you want to ask them.
If you were to eat yourself entirely, would you double in size or disappear completely?
How does one secure a lucrative deal with a prestigious publisher? Long term, of course. It seems it is beyond one, and everything is hopeless.
"If prolific writers wrote for reputations & prizes, & not rather to express a personal vision, we would not publish so frequently"
Stephen King recently addressed a question about whether or not authors can be too prolific. What is your stance? Do more prolific authors become less well regarded by critics as somehow producing less ‘literary’ work and is there an unfair perception towards so called ‘genre fiction’ writers as being less concerned about the craft?
Bryan Cooper asks:
Who would win in a MMA fight between a horse-sized wasp and Donald Trump’s toupee?
Do you still have absolutely no idea of what Charlie Hebdo is about and its cultural context but nevertheless give your totally uniformed opinion about it?
Do you still use dreams for inspiration?
Your novella Zombie is one of the most intense and unnerving pieces of fiction I’ve ever encountered – would you ever consider adapting it for film?
Well, the trailer is:
I read We Were The Mulvaneys. Has a character ever got under your skin?
I adore your short story ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ but do you feel it has been overanalysed or are you proud it is often studied on Literature courses?
"'Freedom of speech' is a phrase to be taken with a grain of salt"
Do you think the credibility of PEN was damaged irrevocably when so many members failed to grasp the moral distinction between offending cultural sensitivities and the murder of satirists?
Do you think there is anything about your work that makes it particularly American? Aside, of course, from the fact that it is written there (I assume).
Do you prefer building sandcastles or snowmen?
"Twitter has remade the media from below"
You have an infamous Twitter account. You’ve gone viral with a dinosaur prank and been praised as one of the best authors on the social network, but also got called a troll and been asked by Gawker or Jezebel to delete it.
You’ve said it’s meant to be funny. Can you talk about how and why you use Twitter? Do you see it as an experimentation tool? Are you actively trying to provoke reactions from your readers? How does your Twitter activity relate to or inform your writing?
PS. Could you please explain this tweet? Please! Thank you.
I’m in college now and have been reading your work for nearly seven years. You’ve had a larger impact on my life more than anyone I know and I owe so much of my wellbeing to you. I truly believe I would be a different person if you were not writing and publishing. It’s cliche but I’m still curious: Is there any advice that you would give to your nineteen year old self?
Kullus De Quertyman asks:
I got loads out of your essays about Saul Bellow and the city and his voice etc. That’s all ... no question, unless you have anything to say about Bellow and how he influenced voice-driven novels.
More reading suggestions from Joyce, adding another reply to an earlier question:
"Some fiction seems to spring white-hot from the imagination, as if a dream were struggling into consciousness"
Joyce, in your book “The Faith of a Writer” you speak about inspiration and cite Virginia Woolf (pgs 87-88) and the ‘necessity of surrendering to the unconscious.’ Woolf says the novel “exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can’t cross ....” Can you suggest ways for writers to tap into that unconscious (or subconscious) to reach the story on that far side? Sometimes I find that I have a story, a word, a scene, a character, and then nothing happens in my mind for weeks or months. How do you reach your stories on that far side of the gulf?
"I can’t write about anything without having been struck by it, even haunted by it"
From the book Them right through to Blonde and My sister, My love, you never seem to write about the same subjects. So it becomes harder to classify your work which I love. Do you go through a process of choosing subjects or do you read a news story and think it would make a good piece?
Jonnie Griffiths asks:
I’m interested in how you got started as a writer. Were you nervous? Did you write as a child? What do you think of your early stuff? What advice do you give to young budding writers?
"My greatest regret? Having been born without the capacity to understand math"
What is your single greatest regret?
Reading your book We Were The Mulvaneys, I became deeply attached to the characters, so much so that I still think of Marianne Mulvaney and her cat Muffin some years after finishing the book. Which of your characters do you feel most attached to? And is it hard to say ‘goodbye’ to them on finishing writing a novel?
Can you ever imagine The Accursed being dramatised? Do you think it’s possible? Personally I think it could be wonderful, the characters are so vivid.
1) I remember seeing you at the World Science Festival with the late E.L. Doctorow, and I wish there could have been more questions about the role of science in your work. How do dreams and psychology inform your work? Do you spend a lot of time reading psychological texts?
2) You’re making some kind of an interesting statement about race and class, but I’m not sure what you’re saying. I’ve noticed, for instance, that some of your “white” women characters have these physical descriptions that sound, to me (I’m a black woman), as though they’re black. Why is that? Are you demonstrating a sisterhood between white women and women of color?
Your collection On Boxing is my favourite of your writings. Do you keep in touch with Tyson ? Any plans to write more on this subject ? I’d love to read your impression of Mayweather etc
Entering your world is a very particular space; your characters and landscapes are drenched in a violent despair. Is this a conscious decision, do you even recognise this perennial view? In the last thirty years I have read most of your novels but as I get older and possibly saner, I find I am no longer strong enough to withstand this lack of hope. I would be so interested to hear your views on your personal out look on life, do the books act as a container for the harsher feelings, leaving you to lead a happy, more positive life?
Hyosho asks, slyly referring to the aforementioned Spielberg picture:
Like you, I am very concerned about the degradation of our natural environment, particularly the sport hunting of Ceratopsids - is there anything that can be done or should we concentrate on preserving what few specimens are left in safari parks?
In the late 1960’s you were the first female to publish a fictional story in Playboy. It was loosely parodied on the English faculty at the University of Windsor. You exposed many scandals, involving trysts, including adulterous activities that ruined many families. Do you take creative inspiration, and conceptual ideas, from your students essays (a recurring accusation), and the life situations you may find yourself in??
Who is really answering our questions? Is it you, Ms Joyce? Or is it you, Cleo the cat?
I’ve come to your work rather late, but having read your very good memoir A Widow’s Story recently, I’m now reading Blonde, which I think is astonishingly good. I read somewhere that you felt you were channelling Marilyn Monroe as you wrote it, and I think that’s one reason it’s so effective; your ability to subjectively become your character, and therefore evoke identification and empathy in the reader, is exemplary. Do you find that in order to sustain your concentration and immersion in a piece of work like this you have to shut large parts of the world out, at least while you’re writing intensively? Or have you evolved a way of compartmentalising so that you can daily ‘get into’ the flow without too much effort?
"On Twitter, irony is very dangerous and parody even worse"
Rich Wharton asks:
‘On Boxing’ is a book I have repeatedly recommended to any new or casual boxing fans... The preponderance of opinion tends to lie in favour of the essay collection when it comes to choosing, for want of a better word, ‘meaningful’ boxing reading. My question, which by now may be over-laboured, is if you also believe this to be the case, and if so, why it is so? I possess the opinion that boxing, while perhaps not a metaphor for life, is yet too serious and multi-layered a subject for a fictional novel to deal with adequately, and too wide-ranging and difficult to be encapsulated by a non-fictional book which attempts to present the crux of the sport as microcosm - “Here is Mike Tyson/Muhammad Ali/Joe Louis; The Personification of Boxing!!”
I would also like to ask whether you believe that your previously stated views on the roles of women within boxing still hold true, especially in light of Ann Wolfe, Kathy Duva, Holly Holm, and others like them?
Years ago I read a haunting story of yours, about a young couple who are morally compromised by their actions following an automobile incident involving a menacing stranger. What I thought was the central thematic scene takes place in an overturned house-trailer on the sandy beach of a lagoon--a place of confusion and discord on both literal and symbolic levels. Could you remind me of the title of the story, and tell me where I might find it?
"Writing is a process, and not a product. You should enjoy the experience, even of being frustrated"
You are a prolific writer. Have you ever experienced block and, if so, how did you overcome it?
"My life was made possible – my life as a writer, I mean – by the emotional support of my family"
I’m fascinated by the transformative power and transforming values of objects in narratives of grief, mourning and loss.
In ‘Mother, Missing’, I see Nikki proceeding through her pain and grief by moving into her mother’s house, using her mother’s things, inhabiting her mother the best way she can looking at her mother’s calendar and (against her nature) ‘doing good’ as her mother had done on days marked for taking seniors swimming or visiting elderly relatives... In what way do you think the objects in this narrative act as agents for Nikki’s grief?
Did you ever have second thoughts about your views on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo? You joined a protest to stop PEN from honoring this publication. Most all of the people who signed seemed obviously unaware of the publication’s sophisticated political commentary.
From the same questioner:
Oh and also: given the aforementioned productivity, do you actually end up doing much reading? If so who do you rate amongst young American writers and why - and is there anyone underrated or unknown who we should be reading?
Joyce is with us now
Joyce is answering your questions now, live from her Princeton home. First up is this from clareyesno:
Hi Joyce – your editor Daniel Halpern once said (in the Guardian): “In cars, in airports, on planes, if she’s at party and no one’s talking to her she’s writing. She’s completely focused, and makes use of every moment.” How have you crafted this level of focus? Is it natural or something you worked at? I suppose my broader question is: how on earth do you manage to keep writing at such a constantly productive rate??
Post your questions for Joyce Carol Oates
While some writers are novelists, poets or essayists, Joyce Carol Oates simply writes. Born in 1938, her work has encompassed hundreds of short stories, numerous plays, reams of verse, essays on everything from Mike Tyson to Philip Roth, and over forty novels – plus those for children and young adults, and more besides under a pair of pseudonyms adopted for mystery novels.
It adds up to a formidable body of work that constantly unpicks the cruelties and joys of everyday American life. “Racism, misogyny, poverty, political corruption, bullying and the tyranny of hierarchies are her prime subjects,” wrote the novelist Rose Tremain earlier this year, reviewing her novel The Sacrifice, in which she explored civil unrest through the story of an African American family in a fictional New Jersey town. This month sees another memoir published – The Lost Landscape, about her time growing up.
Oates is joining us to discuss these and anything else in her life’s work in a live webchat on Monday 7 September, from 2pm BST onwards – post your questions for her in the comments below, and she’ll answer as many as possible.