Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Joyce Carol Oates Suffers a Tough Year

Raymond Smith, Joyce Carol Oates

I haven't mentioned Joyce Carol Oates here in recent weeks but I've been quietly wondering when she would release a new book. After all, this is the most prolific high-quality writer that I know of, a very good thing for me since I'm a huge fan of her work, and her next book, based upon her own unique standard, is overdue.

Now I see in yesterday's Sun Sentinel interview that Ms. Oates is having a difficult time adjusting to the sudden and unexpected loss in February 2008 of her husband of almost 50 years. Raymond Smith, according to Ms. Oates was perhaps the main reason that she has been able to write so many books and plays since they married in 1961. Now that she is alone in dealing with all the financial and household chores that Smith took care of for so many years, she has far less time to write. I, for one, am extremely grateful for the role that Raymond Smith played in the literary career of Joyce Carol Oates.

Just look at a few of the things she's accomplished in the last five decades:
48 novels written in her name or in one of her two pen names

8 novellas

34 short story collections

Numerous plays and play collections

At least 8 books of poetry

At least 10 essay collections

At least 7 children or young adult books

Numerous other non-fiction and editorial works

Stories and novels made into movies and television plays

National Book Award winner in 1970

14 other award nominations (National Book Award, Pen/Faulkner, Pulitzer, etc.)

And the latest: making this year's Man Booker International Prize long list (included in the count directly above)

These numbers are taken from the informal checklist of her work that I use from time-to-time to add to my Joyce Carol Oates collection (some 81 books plus a few books about Oates), so the numbers are only my best approximation.


  1. I hadn't heard that about Mr. Smith. Sad news.

  2. That is sad. It is not often that such a gifted author is also that prolific.

  3. I had somehow missed that news, too, Bybee. I see now that she is engaged to be married, so she seems to be building a new life for herself at 70 years of age.

  4. Very sad, Lisa, I agree. A loss like that one must leave a huge whole in the survivor's world.

  5. I didn't even know she'd been married for so very long. How sad to lose such a partner! But how wonderful to have had a relationship that enabled her to be so prolific and create like that; very unusual.

  6. I wonder if the loss she suffered influenced the title of her new book, "Dear Husband," a short story collection.