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Writing Letters, Writing Books with Joyce Carol Oates

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, May 20, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0365
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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In 1975, author Joyce Carol Oates received a letter from graduate student Greg Johnson about a professor’s suicide. She wrote back empathetically. Soon the two began a largely epistolary friendship, and Johnson eventually wrote several biographies of Oates.

Oates’ letters were often sprinkled with the names of famous people, from John Updike and Toni Morrison to Steve Martin and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She also described far-flung travels. But much of Oates' prose centered on the pleasures of her home life, including her cats and the wildlife outside her study window.

While her academic essays and book reviews are eloquent in a formal way, in her letters she is relaxed, even when she writes seriously about her concerns. The letters give a fascinating glimpse into her writing practice, whether she was working on a long novel or a brief essay. They also display her droll and sometimes wicked sense of humor, phenomenal energy, and mastery of the lost art of letter writing.

Inspired by the letters in her new book, Joyce Carol Oates: Letters to a Biographer (Akashic), Oates, in conversation with author and educator Rebecca Boggs Roberts, discusses her writing process and style over the past four decades. The book is available for purchase.

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