For more than three decades, Joyce Carol Oates has been hailed as one of the most significant and enduring writers of the twentieth century. Brilliantly inventive and astonishingly prolific, she has captured the imaginations of millions of readers worldwide with her unflinching portraits of human nature set against tumultuous, frequently violent, and uniquely American landscapes.
In Invisible Writer, the first full-length, authorized biography of this complex and supremely gifted writer, honored author and literary critic Greg Johnson examines the mysteries and myths that have attended Oates’s remarkable career. Granted privileged access to her private letters and journals, and drawing upon hundreds of extensive interviews with family, friends, colleagues, and Oates herself, Johnson develops his portrait of an “invisible writer” whose carefully guarded private world proves as fascinating as her well-publicized literary career.Yet Joyce Carol Oates herself has remained an enigmatic figure who has avoided the media spotlight, choosing instead to stay focused on her writing. Despite more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles published about her work, relatively little has been known about the family background and personal life of the award-winning novelist who was once dubbed “the dark lady of American letters.”
Oates’s own life was marked by the same chaos, violence, and dark twists of fate that would later beset her fictional characters and create her obsession with what she calls “the phantasmagoria of personality.” Here is the child born into poverty in the desolate heart of upstate New York; a girl shadowed by emotional terrors; a young woman drawn at an early age into an intensely private world of the intellect and imagination. We learn of her relationship with her autistic sister, Lynn, her mirror image—and a child without words; of her spectacular early success and subsequent conflicts with a sexist and hostile literary establishment; and of the near breakdown in the face of overwhelming media attention.
Yet through it all Joyce Carol Oates has managed to balance her professional and personal lives to produce such masterpieces as them, Bellefleur, You Must Remember This, Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, and We Were the Mulvaneys, all given careful and provocative readings in this elucidating study.
Exhaustively researched and richly detailed, Invisible Writer charts the evolution of one of the most fascinating and diverse literary legacies in American fiction. It is the definitive study of a remarkable artist.