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Authors: Joyce Carol Oates

Expensive People


“You cannot put this novel away after you have opened it. This is that kind of book—hypnotic, fascinating, and electrifying.”

The Detroit News

“The question is no longer whether Miss Oates is a very good writer—she is, indeed—but just how far and high she can thrust the trajectory of brilliant accomplishment.… Everything she touches turns to such blistering gold… .
[Expensive People]
is satire, confession, dream, report on suburbia, gothic tale in contemporary dress … fused into a prophetic novel as singular in effect as the night cry of a hurt animal.” —
The Washington Post Book World

“Cuts to the bone in its chilling effectiveness.” —
Publishers Weekly

“In her new novel,
Expensive Peoplejoyce
Carol Oates has made a very large demand upon her literary imagination and her talent. She has asked herself to become a 250-pound, eighteen-year-old boy-genius sitting alone in a shabby rented room composing a memoir about how he assassinated one of his parents…. [Miss Oates] has a great deal of talent, and it rises strongly to this formidable challenge.”

The New York Times

“A future archaeologist equipped only with [Oates's] oeuvre could easily piece together the whole of postwar America.”


“Oates writes prose of striking directness and simplicity. Everything she writes bears the marks of a terrific imaginative pressure…. She invests everything she touches with the qualities of her own voice, which is nervous, fast, febrile and hot as an iron. I'd unhesitatingly say that she is one of the most important living American writers.”



With Shuddering Fall

A Garden of Earthly Delights

them (1969)


Do with Me What You Will

The Assassins


Son of the Morning(1978)


Unboly Loves

Bellefleur (1980)

Angel of Light

A Bloodsmoor Romance

Mysteries of Winterthurn

Solstice (1985)

Marya: A Life (1986)

You Must Remember This

American Appetites

Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My

Black Water

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang
What I Lived For (1994) We Were the Mulvaneys
(1996) ??«« Crazj (1997) ykfj
Heart Laid Bare
Broke Heart Blues (1999) Blonde

Middle Age: A Romance
(2001) I'll Take
You There
The Tattooed Girl (2003) The Falls
Black Girl, White Girl


Lives of the Twins

Soul/Mate (1989)


Snake Eyes (1992)

You Can't Catch Me (1995)

Double Delight

Starr Bright Will Be with You Soon (1999)

The Barrens (2001)


By the North Gate

Upon the Sweeping Flood SweepingFlood

The Wheel of Love

Marriages and Infidelities

The Goddess and Other Women

Hungry Ghosts

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?(1974)

The Poisoned Kiss

The Seduction

Crossing the Border

Night-Side (1977)

All the Good People I've Left Behind

The Lamb of Abyssalia

A Sentimental Education

Last Days (1984) Wild Nights

Raven's Wing(1986)

The Assignation

Heat (1991)

Where Is Here?(1992) Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque


“Will You Always Love Me?” (1996) The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the


Faithless (2001) I Am No One You Know

High Lonesome: Stories, 1996-2006

The Female of the Species


The Triumph of the Spider Monkey

I Lock My Door upon Myself (1990)

The Rise of Life on Earth

First Love: A Gothic Tale

Beasts (2002)

Rape: A Love Story


Joyce Carol Oates, one of America's most versatile and prolific contemporary writers, was born in the small town of Lockport, New York, on June 16, 1938. She grew up on a farm in nearby Erie County and began writing stories while still in elementary school. As a teenager she devoured works by Faulkner, Dostoyevsky Thoreau, Hemingway, and the Brontes, and soon moved on to D. H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka. Oates graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University in 1960 and was awarded an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1961. During the 1960s and 1970s she taught English at the University of Detroit and the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. In 1974 she cofounded the
Ontario Review
with her husband, Raymond Smith. Oates was named a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1978, the same year she became writer-in-residence at Princeton University, where she is currently the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.

Oates's first novel,
With Shuddering Fall
(1964), the story of a destructive romance between a teenage girl and a thirty-year-old race car driver, foreshadowed her preoccupation with violence and darkness. Her next novel,
A Garden of Earthly Delights
(1967), is the opening volume in a quartet about different socioeconomic groups in America that incorporates
Expensive People
(1969), for which she
won the National Book Award, and
(197?). Throughout the 1970s Oates pursued her exploration of American people and institutions in a series of novels that fuse social analysis with vivid psychological portrayals.
(1971) exposes the shortcomings of the medical world;
Do with Me What You Will
(1973) centers on the legal profession;
The Assassins
(197'5) attacks political corruption;
Son of the Morning
(197'8) tracks the rise and fall of a religious zealot; and
Unholy Loves
(1979) looks at pettiness and hypocrisy within the academic community. “Like the most important modern writers—-Joyce, Proust, Mann—Oates has an absolute identification with her material: the spirit of a society at a crucial point in its history,” noted
Novels such as
(197'6) and
(1979) showcase what Alfred Kazin called “her sweetly brutal sense of what American experience is really like.”

“Joyce Carol Oates is a fearless writer… [with] impossibly lush and dead-on imaginative powers,” noted the
Los Angeles Times Book Review.
During this same period she secured her reputation as a virtuoso of the short story with eight acclaimed collections:
By the North Gate
Upon the Sweeping Flood
The Wheel of Love and Other Stories (1970), Marriages and Infidelities
The Goddess and Other Women
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
The Hungry Ghosts
The Poisoned Kiss and Other Stories from the Portuguese
The Seduction and Other Stories
Crossing the Border
(1977), and
All the Good People I've Left Behind
(1978). “In the landscape of the contemporary American short story Miss Oates stands out as a master, occupying a preeminent category of her own,” said the
Saturday Review.
“[Oates] intuitively seems to know that the short story is for a different type of material from the novel: a brief and dazzling plunge into another state of consciousness,” remarked Erica Jong. “Miss Oates [is] our poet laureate of schizophrenia, of blasted childhoods, of random acts of violence.” Her stories have been widely anthologized, and she is a three-time winner of the O. Henry Continuing Achievement Award as well as the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story.

“Joyce Carol Oates is that rarity in American fiction, a writer who seems to grow with each new book,” said
She set out in new directions in the 1980s with an acclaimed series of bestselling novels that exploit the conventions of Gothic literature:
Bellefleur(1980), A Bloods-moor
(1982), and
Mysteries of Winterthurn
(1984). In addition, she wrote
Angel of Light (
Solstice (1985), Marya: A Life
You Must Remember This
(1987), and
American Appetites
(1989): a succession of works that make it clear why
Commonweal deemed
her “the most relentless chronicler of America and its nightmares since Poe.” “Oates's best novels are strongly reminiscent of Faulkner's, especially in their uncompromised vision of the violence her characters visit upon one another and themselves,” said
The Washington Post Book World.
“Even her humor—and she can be hilariously funny—is mordantly ironical.” Using the pseudonym Rosamond Smith she began writing a series of psychological suspense novels:
Lives of the Twins
Snake Eyes
You Can't Catch Me
Double Delight
(1997), and
Starr Bright Will Be with You Soon
(1999). Her compilations of short stories continued with
The Lamb of Abyssalia
A Sentimental Education
Last Days
Wild Nights
Raven's Wing(1986),
The Assignation
(1988). In addition she enjoyed great success with
On Boxing
(1987), an eloquent meditation on prizefighting.

“Oates's unblinking curiosity about human nature is one of the great artistic forces of our time,” observed
The Nation
as her output proliferated throughout the 1990s. Her novels further examined the violence underlying many realities of American culture: racism
(Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart,
1990), alienation
(I Lock My Door upon Myself 1990),
(The Rise of Life on Earth,
1991), the interplay of politics and sex
(Black Water,
1992), feminism
(Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang,
1993), success
(What I Lived For,
1994), serial killers
1995), family disintegration (
We Were the Mulvaneys,
1996), outlaw cults
(Man Crazy,
1997), criminality and greed
(My Heart Laid Bare,
1998), and fame and celebrity
(Broke Heart Blues,
1999, and
2000). “A future archaeologist equipped only with her
could easily piece together the whole of postwar America,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “No one knows the darkness of our age, of our own natures, the prison of our narcissism, better than Joyce Carol Oates,” wrote
The Washington Post Book World.
Her volumes of short stories dating from this period include
Heat (1991), Where Is Here? (1992), Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque
“Will You Always Love Me?”
(1996), and
The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque
(1998). “Oates has imbued the American short story with an edgy vitality and raw social surfaces,”
stated the
Chicago Tribune,
and Alice Adams deemed her short fiction “immensely exhilarating, deeply exciting.” In 1994 she received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction.

“Joyce Carol Oates belongs to that small group of writers who keep alive the central ambitions and energies of literature,” said
Though best known for short stories and novels, she has also won acclaim for her poetry, essays, and plays. “The best of Miss Oates's poems create a feeling of controlled delirium, verging on nightmare, which is a lyrical counterpart of the rich violence of her novels,” wrote
The New York Times Book Review.
Her volumes of poetry include
Women in Love and Other Poems
Anonymous Sins and Other Poems
Love and Its Derangements
Angel Fire
Dreaming America
The Fabulous Beasts
Season of'Peril
The Stepfather
Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money
Celestial Timepiece
Invisible Woman
The Luxury of Sin
(1983), and
The Time Traveler
(1989). As George Garrett noted: “The bright center of all Joyce Carol Oates's art and craft has always been her poetry.” Her several collections of essays—
The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature
New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature
Contraries (1981), The Profane Art: Essays and Reviews
(Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities
(1988), and
Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose
(1999)—display a range of knowledge and interests that explain why she numbers among America's most respected literary and social critics. Oates made a name for herself as a dramatist early in her career with plays such as
The Sweet Enemy
Sunday Dinner (191G), Onto-logical Proof of My Existence
(1972), and
Miracle Play
(1974). During the 1990s she resumed writing plays and turned out
In Darkest America (1991), I Stand Before You Naked (1991), Gulf War (1992), The Secret Mirror
The Perfectionist
(1993), and
The Truth-Teller
(1993), which have been performed Off-Broadway and at regional theaters across the country.

“Joyce Carol Oates is one of our most audaciously talented writers,” judged Erica Jong. “Her gift is so large, her fluency in different genres—poems, short stories, novels, essays—so great, that at times she seems to challenge the ability of readers to keep up with her. In an age of specialization she is that rarest of generalists, a woman of letters. She gives her gifts with such abundance and generosity that we may
pick and choose, preferring this Oates to that, quibbling about which of her many talents we like best.” John Updike concurred: “Joyce Carol Oates was perhaps born a hundred years too late. She needs a lustier audience, a race of Victorian word-eaters, to be worthy of her astounding productivity, her tireless gift of self-enthrallment. Not since Faulkner has an American writer seemed so mesmerized by a field of imaginary material, and so headstrong in the cultivation of that field.”
The New York Times Book Review
concluded: “What keeps us coming back to Oates Country is her uncanny gift of making the page a window, with something happening on the other side that we'd swear was life itself.”

Joyce Carol Oates's most recent novels include
Middle Age: A Romance
I'll Take You There
The Tattooed Girl
The Falls (2004), Missing Mom
(2005), and
Black Girl, White Girl (2006).

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