A tribute to the brilliant craftsmanship of one of our most distinguished writers, providing valuable insight into her inspiration and her method
Joyce Carol Oates is widely regarded as one of America's greatest contemporary literary figures. Having written in a number of genres prose, poetry, personal and critical essays, as well as plays she is an artist ideally suited to answer essential questions about what makes a story striking, a novel come alive, a writer an artist as well as a craftsman.
In The Faith of a Writer, Oates discusses the subjects most important to the narrative craft, touching on topics such as inspiration, memory, self-criticism, and "the unique power of the unconscious." On a more personal note, she speaks of childhood inspirations, offers advice to young writers, and discusses the wildly varying states of mind of a writer at work. Oates also pays homage to those she calls her "significant predecessors" and discusses the importance of reading in the life of a writer.
Oates claims, "Inspiration and energy and even genius are rarely enough to make 'art': for prose fiction is also a craft, and craft must be learned, whether by accident or design." In fourteen succinct chapters, The Faith of a Writer provides valuable lessons on how language, ideas, and experience are assembled to create art.
Prolific novelist, playwright, and poet Oates has collected 12 previously published essays about the craft of writing, plus an interview regarding her novel Blonde. The topics covered range from coping with failure as an artist to the inspiration derived by reading others' writing. The award-winning writer draws insight from various writers' diaries, especially that of Virginia Woolf, regarding unsuccessful attempts at evaluating one's own writing. Although her intention is not to write an autobiography, she does incorporate personal anecdotes, particularly those about childhood readings, attending a one-room schoolhouse, and her in-home study. Except for the introduction and an initial half-page essay, no new material has been included in this collection. While this may disappoint some Oates fans, those desiring to know more about this versatile writer or those who aspire to write will find the essays instructive, albeit they are more general than those found in how-to-write manuals. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.