The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  544 ratings  ·  61 reviews
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 su...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published September 23rd 2003 by Ecco (first published 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,406)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
There's something really absurd about writing a book about writing a book. Every mind is so different, and what works for one, will not work for another; so inevitably these books (Oates' The Faith of a Writer, Lamott's Bird by Bird - which I only recently learned isn't about bird-counting, who knew right?, the many, many "On Writing"-esque pretensions) are not about "how to write" but are an entirely egotistical account of "how I write."

That is the obvious shortcoming of this book. But it is so...more
She says "memesis."

Reading this, I felt angry, bored and jealous. Then I hated her more, then I decided I'd hate her writing. Then I wasn't reading this for like a week and I keep thinking about it. She seems humorless and boring, but part of me is angry that I can't manage to be exactly like her and dear Lord, look at the number of books she's written. You'll hear a lot of Ivy League and Summer Home and "my office" comments, which if you are mature will not make you angry. Just don't expect to...more
Such an elegant writer. This is one of the best books on writing that I have read, and I have read my share. I copied this for my writing workshop: Since writing is ideally a balance between the private vision and the public world, the one passionate and often inchoate, the other formally constructed, quick to categorize and assess, it's necessary to thin of this art as a craft. Without craft, art remains private, Without art, craft is merely hackwork." I mean, really, what more is there to say....more
Kate Campbell
Writers of literary fiction will find The Faith of a Writer indespensible. Joyce Carol Oates goes to the heart of issues that concern writers of serious fiction. Oates writes: "It isn't the subjects we write about but the seriousness and subtlety of our expression that determines the worth of our effort." She makes the case for a careful study of craft, tied to inspiration, to shape art in prose form. She stresses that "it's at the junction of private vision and the wish to create a communal, pu...more
A disappointment, particularly on the heels of reading The Falls. The clash of her fast-flowing, emotionally involving narrative voice with the kind of studied, academic blah blah blah I hadn't encountered since...well, since leaving grad school.
LK Hunsaker
I enjoy the fiction I've read by Joyce Carol Oates and I intend to read far more of it. As with Marilynne Robinson, however, I found this book about the writing craft a little hard to wade through at times.

There are, indeed, several big gems I've bookmarked, but much of it is too based on her own viewpoint that people become writers because they adore language. I was surprised at this stance, given how her novels feel as though they are about the story, not about the language (although, yes, the...more
I'm not really sure where the last hundred or so pages of this book went. I sat down to read it while hitting a dead patch in my writing this afternoon and ended up finishing the book as Oates took me along with her train of thought. I cursed myself the entire time for having checked this book out of the library rather than buying it, thereby not being able to underline and comment and make a general conversational mess of the text (I mean, I could have, but the library probably would have gotte...more
A rich and prolific literary life—this is the reason why the young reader should prick up his ears, pick up The Faith of a Writer, and begin to discern the secret of JCO’s success. Her first invaluable gem of wisdom? “Young or beginning writers must be urged to read widely, ceaselessly, both classics and contemporaries, for without an immersion in the history of the craft, one is doomed to remain an amateur: an individual for whom enthusiasm is ninety-nine percent of the creative effort." Which...more
Charles Bechtel
Aug 21, 2011 Charles Bechtel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Writers who have contemplated writing a novel
Recommended to Charles by: A library browsing
She's amazing for being prolific, and I am sure there are legions of faithful Oatesians out there, but I rarely hear her books discussed as much as her activity in producing them. I own a dozen JCO books, and have finished only one, the shortest. This may be the cruelest thing a fellow writer can say, that she loses me almost always.

Be that as it may, 'The Faith of a Writer: life, craft, art' is a book worth reading, if you are a writer. I can't imagine a reader having much to glean from it, unl...more
"Art," writes Joyce Carol Oates, "is the highest expression of the human spirit." And while humankind has often struggled to express why it is that art is so very necessary to our spirits (why is art the first course cut in public education when budgets require constraint?), we cannot exist without it. Art is, in great part, our communication with each other, our attempt as social animals to connect, but first and foremost, as Oates goes on to describe, it is our solitary striving to go deep - i...more
Ron Christiansen
More literary and less personal than I thought it would be and she does focus a lot on white male authors (Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner etc--though quite a lot on Virginia Wolf) as one goodreads reviewer points out; still a solid read about writing with a different angle than one usually gets (see Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird or Stephen Kings On writing). I found many compelling passages: "One is born not to suffer but to negotiate with suffering, to choose or invent forms to accommodate it" (67) or...more
Nik Markevicius
Think about what an impressionist painter might have to say about the way he goes about his or her art. That's the feeling I have after reading these essays on the creative writing process. This is a book for writers, and it's by good at being inspiring without every offering you a single concrete how-to conceding any aspect of the craft. Instead, we have the musings of an artist on art, shaped and formed carefully so that, hopefully, one may take away something which aids him/her in the creativ...more
This book reads like it is written by someone who is really stuck up. By stuck-up, I mean someone who takes themselves and their privileges too seriously. JCO gives some good pointer about how to feel about the act of writing and failing, but over-emphasizes the works of the white male cannon, with no reflexivity on all that it excludes; she just seems to be happy that she has been given a provisional pass to join it. Moreover, she makes some sweeping statements about the writing life that simpl...more
This collection of essays and one re-printed interview is not the feel good sort of lift you up make you want to write memoir on writing, as say, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, or Stephen King's part memoir, part instruction On Writing. It's more a psychological look at writing and writers, heavy hitters to be specific, with the slant of literary criticism one might expect from America's preeminent female contemporary author, and Princeton professor.

I loved it, and wish I owned a copy. And I need...more
I had read a few of these essays elsewhere, but I enjoyed this collection. It's not a guide to writing, because who needs another guide to writing? It's also not really about how Oates writes, although there are tidbits about her process.

It's really a collection of wonderful essays that hold writing up and look at it from different angles. In these essays, JCO examines, plays, with, and elucidates the tension between the writer and her work, the fact of inspiration, the relationship between run...more
Taylor Church
This was a splendid little read about the joys of writing. It was pithy and colorful, all the while inspiring my own often dormant motivation between projects. This little treat is for any true fan of literature, or novice writer.
This book wasn't bad, but it wasn't what I was expecting either. I thought it would be one of those writing books where the author talks about their own writing process. Instead, she seemed to ramble on without really coming to a point and to talk about other authors and how they did things. And since they're mostly dead and never wrote their own books on writing, these thoughts on how they did things are drawn from their personal diaries, memoirs, or their novels. I felt like I was reading a st...more
Essentially a more cerebral version of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird - (though I'm sure both Oates and Lamott would both prickle to hear me say it) whether you prefer Lamott's plain-spoken advice or Joyce Carol Oates' oblique, analytical voice is really up to the reader.

The individual chapters are cobbled together from an assortment of sources; at times you may find yourself wondering what one chapter's relation to another might be. The final two chapters especially seem a bit superfluous: One is...more
Educational, but still a wonderful read.

I thought this memoir of Joyce Carol Oates life and career was just a wonderful piece of literature. The twelve essays were given in such a way that I could easy understand. The essays explore Ms. Oates' driving force in her career as a writer. These essays are very educational for aspiring authors and even for those folks like me that just want to learn about a great writer such as Ms. Oates.
There were detail discussion by the author on her daily life; he...more
Sara Farinha
“Escrever é a mais solitária das artes. O próprio acto de nos afastarmos do mundo a fim de criar um contramundo “fictício” – “metafórico” – revela-se de tal maneira curioso que escapa à nossa compreensão. Porque escrevemos? Porque lemos?…”

Assim começa a viagem pela Fé de um Escritor, um conjunto de ensaios com que Joyce nos incita a tentar conjugar todas as peças do “eu” e do “eu-escritor”.


Ver a crítica na totalidade em:
Caryn Mohr
Very interesting to read her writing as herself and not JCO, a fascinating distinction she makes.
This is just the book I needed right now.

JCO has intrigued me since I first read a short story of hers in college. Since then, I've read a handful of her works, never quite sure of whether or not I truly like them. But her brilliance here shines. Wonderful, thought-provoking advice for anyone that aspires to be, or considers themselves, a writer.

Especially if you're in somewhat of a "dark place" with your own creations, this might just be the book to return you to the light. It did so for me.
There were a few good points that I found encouraging as a writer - never quit, the real writing is in the editing, and failure can be good. The rest of the book is pure fluff. She rambles on. This book could have been about 3 pages long and been most effective. Also, this is written by a person who has had too much time to think. My time reading this book, I finally decided, was better spent on my own writing. If she is this long-winded in everything she writes, I'll skip her books.
T Justin
Ms. Oates is the proverbial prolific writer. I consider my own mind to be in a constant state of overdrive. I cannot imagine being behind her eyes. Her series of short reflective essays in the book each stand on their own. They are not so much informative as observational. But do not deprive yourself of her voice and insight. She is, after all, the literary phenomenon of two centuries and her works will live on forever.
Jun 07, 2007 Leah rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked it this book expecting to read about Joyce Carol Oates writing process and life, unfortunately those subjects come up rarely in this slim tome, as Oates choses to focus much more broadly on writers at large. While this collection of essays was more critical than personal in nature, it is still worth reading and learning from. I just wish Ms. Oates has shared more of her own experiences with us.
"JCO" talks about other writers' habits more than her own in this book on writing. Interesting information on Hemingway, Woolf, Dickinson, Carver, Melville, etc., but not much on Oates herself. She stresses the importance of reading in order to become a better writer and how physical activity, especially running, can help writers' thought processes. Interesting but not as inspirational as I had hoped.
Like Stephen King's On Writing, you can tell the insights in this book come from somebody who has paid their dues as a writer. Oates is at her least interesting when giving exegesis of other writer's work, and at her best when she relates anecdotes about her writing life and that of others, and especially when offering up her sincere and self-lacerating credo for why literature matters.
Susan Barrett Price
Aug 29, 2009 Susan Barrett Price rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Fast, inspiring reflections on writing, not only from Oates but from her study of other writers.

I was particularly struck by her essay on Failure and how writers inhabit their failure. Failure is agony; failure is important; good writers build on failure. Struck a chord with me.

Read on my iPhone, ebook downloaded from Barnes & Noble.
Ellen Keim
This is a collection of essays and one interview by/with Joyce Carol Oates. There's not a lot about her methods, etc., so it's not a how-to book for writers, but her observations about the various topics are insightful and somewhat revealing. It's a short book, so it doesn't take long to read. It was worth the time invested in reading it.
I read about half this book and just couldn't be bothered to pick it up again. I expected it to be more about writing in general instead of the author's commentary on various stories that inspired her to write. It seemed to read more like a collection of essays written for an English course than a book about writing by a prolific author.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 46 47 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Writing Alone and with Others
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
  • Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer's Life
  • The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
  • The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing
  • Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times
  • Making a Literary Life
  • Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives
  • Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within
  • Becoming a Writer
  • The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
  • The Writer's Idea Book
  • Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft
  • The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself
  • The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction
  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
  • Negotiating with the Dead
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure...more
More about Joyce Carol Oates...
We Were the Mulvaneys The Falls The Gravedigger's Daughter Blonde Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

Share This Book

“The novel is the affliction for which only the novel is the cure.” 4 likes
More quotes…