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The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  229 ratings  ·  36 reviews

The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, edited by Greg Johnson, offers a rare glimpse into the private thoughts of this extraordinary writer, focusing on excerpts written during one of the most productive decades of Oates's long career. Far more than just a daily account of a writer's writing life, these intimate, unrevised pages candidly explore her friendship with other writer

Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published October 1st 2002)
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Brandi Larsen
I read this book as I read Son of the Morning, one of the novels that Oates is writing as she keeps these journals. I'd recommend reading the two together or Bellefleur, another novel she talks about in the journals.

Reading the two together helped me as a writer. I especially liked reading about her process. It amazed me how committed she is to the art of writing. At least during these years, she wrote every single day, often in marathon sessions. I wish I had the time to do that -- and dedicati
Dec 03, 2007 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers, teachers, voyeurs
I can't read much while I'm teaching because my quotidian consumes me, but I am reading this one bit-by-bit and it offers one fascinating invitation into the mind of a brilliant writer/teacher after another. It's delicious.
Oates is not an author I'd choose to read, in terms of her fiction--dark, violent, inscrutable--but I loved this look at her interior life. Fascinating to hear her talk about herself as the personage "JCO," as opposed to the writer and wife, Joyce Smith. Author of more than 60 novels, hundreds of short stories, several plays, she is utterly obsessive about her work, preferring it to almost everything else. She's also borderline anorexic, seemingly frail, although she uses her health as an excuse ...more
Marco Kaye
I read this journal as inquiry into one writer's craft. And I enjoyed it. Read it as a ersatz biography, and you'll wind up disappointed. In his review in the New York Times, James Campbell, author of the excellent "Syncopations, seemed to want more dishy stuff. ( But Joyce never wanted her journal to read as a tell-all. To her, the journal is a process book, a record of getting from one place to the next.

The practical nature of what she was aiming to record can make this hav
Mike Lester
An interesting look behind the curtain at this prolific writer. I am constantly amazed at how prolific, yet also how consistently good she is. And now I know why. She is obsessed, completely dedicated to her fiction; her characters are real people to her, and at the novels end she feels their loss. Essential for fans of Oates.
Matthew Walton
" January 23, 2013
Tonight: Worship at the temple of the written word. Tonight to read, tonight to write. I just acquired THE JOURNAL OF JOYCE CAROL OATES: 1973 - 1982 as well as Stanley Elkins' THE LIVING END, the former of the two the pearls of wisdom of which blowing my soul wide open upon skimming (merely skimming) through, the pearls of wisdom of which causing that I want that there be one book written by one of my favorite literary artists, whether that artist's name be Oates, Emerson, Che
Ted Gargiulo
I’ve spent the last year and a half taking small sips from this massive journal. Living inside the author’s mind all that time, I had come to feel (dare I say?) at home there, so much so, I regretted having to eventually finish it. Would that every author got under my skin the way Ms. Oates has.

As always, JCO’s prose is rich, compelling and infused with energy, regardless of the subject matter. There are no wasted words, no trite sentiments, nothing pretentious or held back. She writes as one po
Slow going, but pretty consistently fascinating, especially as it's moved into the second half. I'll pick up subsequent volumes if it proves to be a series. She's trippy.

Sounds very nice and down to earth, by the way, on a personal level. But peering into her writing life has been the trippy part. Spends a good deal of each novel -- and who knows, of many of her 1.5 million short stories and poems and essays, too -- driving herself into a state of almost ecstatic misery. She produces so much be
Thomas Rose-Masters
The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates allows insight mostly into the process by which the details of her 'real' life trickle into her dreams and then onto the pages of her writing. It is obviously a very complex process, but only because Ms. Oates leads an incredibly dense and vivid inner life - her everyday existence mostly revolves around teaching and creating literature.

The journal is at times very similar to her chameleon writing style - a tone poem here, a burst of clear-eyed realism there, and
I am no fan of JCO's fiction, but I did like her book on her husband's death, so thought I would give this a try. Since most of the book is about the throes she goes through in writing a novel, I thought gee, I better take another look at the fiction. Still hate it. JCO is a complete mystery to me, and reading the book didn't help. Still love the book about her widowhood, though.
Charles M.
Interesting insight into the mind and daily thoughts of this phenomenal writer. This period of time was when oates was on the rise to becoming one of America's foremost novelists/writers.
Jan 04, 2008 EJ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Owning a handful of JCO works for years, I never picked one up till I saw her speak on the book channel. (I will only admit I watch that channel on goodreads.)Her wit and charm won me over.
As soon as I saw her journal in Barnes and Noble I had to have it. As readers we love to do our best to get into the minds of the writers we admire. And rarely if ever do we get that chance while they are still alive and well.

This journal covers from 1972-1982. She speaks of her characters, book ideas, daily
Thomas Fasano
An insightful look into the mind of an author fully engaged in her craft. This part of her journal is from several decades ago, but I nonetheless liked reading her opinions of her contemporaries, especially her respect for John Gardner and her biting criticism of John Berryman and Anne Sexton. I recommend this book be read as a sort of daybook. But keep in mind something: JCO is not a spiritual woman. She's fully secular in her attitude toward life, and fiction, and fictional characters. It's as ...more
I have held off reading this book for years...fearing the influence that it might have on me as I worked on becoming a writer...well, I shouldn't have worried so much about that, I keep crying out "Look at what you've been missing, silly thing!" I love this book, there is just so much's good to see how alike and unalike I am from's been an affirmation that I'm not too off the mark with what I think and what I'm trying to do with my writing...I've learned a lot about JCO and m ...more
Wow. I believe Joyce Carol Oates is the epitome of obsessive writing. This journal tells you as much as you can know about the life of an obsessive writer. She wrote a lot, a lot, a LOT! Makes any normal writer feel rather inadequate.

One thing I found tiring was Oates' general disregard to any other piece of writing. Wilde, Shelley, etc. - she always has something negatively critical about what she is writing, except for perhaps John Updike. It makes Oates seem very pretentious, and who likes re
16 January 2008
I've been a big fan of JCO since I was in HS, even after she snubbed me when I saw her speak in 1995. Her journal has lots of valuable information on writing, and even life in general. Even though she tends to be snobby, takes her privilege for granted, and a tad pretentious at times, she's still a great writer, and reading her journal was a rewarding experience. I shall probably do it again when I am through with school for good and am able to resume my own writing, it's inspirat
Andrea Stephenson
Interesting insight into the mind of a prolific writer but reading these journals felt like a slog at times. Her writing process is outlined in detail - the ups and downs of the before, during and after of each piece of writing, often in a very similar cycle. There is a pre-occupation with persona - the difference between 'JCO' the public figure and the 'real' person which is intriguing. There are some gems of wisdom about writing here, but in the end I was relieved to reach the end.
Katje Richstatter
“Revisiting the past is like biting into a sandwich in which, you’ve been assured, there are only a few, really a very few, bits of ground glass” (JCO, p. xii) A fascinating companion piece, full of wit, acerbic wisdom, and other delights. Oates is an American treasure, and after reading "The Accursed", I was hungry for much, much more. Her fiction is so luminous, so arresting--and this is surely her, but low-key and personal.

Ashlee Nishiya
Joyce Carol Oates' journals are a good read for writers. She discusses her writing process-characters and plot ideas, dreams she has, ideas about life. Plus, it's really fun to read about the literary name-dropping-- writers she and her husband dine with, etc..

I got the book from the library, but want to purchase my own copy when it comes out in paperback. There are too many quotes I want to go back to.
I felt like picking up this journal to maybe search for hints of how Oates selects the best essays of the century. It was interesting, but i felt like i invaded in someone's privacy while reading this journal, so i became hesitant to reading it at times. It does give me really good insights for how to understand some of her essays now, linking her personal experiences to her professional work.
I am in love with this book. I love the fact that Ms. Oates did not want her journal to be a dumping ground for gossip and negativity! Gives me permission to journal differently. The journal years coincide with my attending high school, getting married and having 2 daughters. I find it fun to compare my thoughts at that time to what Ms. Oates was thinking. Wonderful read!
If you're trying to understand how Joyce Carol Oates is so incredibly prolific, this book has some answers. There are also some fun anecdotes about your favorite writers from the 70s and early 80s.
Most interesting to me were her ruminations about the significance of violence in her work.
Oates has such an intense inner life that her own journals barely scrape the surface. She seems at times pretentious and at others nervously human. The journal details many of her relationships with other authors, as well as her relationship with her home and husband.
A lot of interesting thoughts in this book. It's not for everyone though. It'd hesitate to recommend this book to anyone, it's just too hard to predict. I loved it until the very very end (last 50 pages or so), where it started to get a little boring.
J. D.
A fascinating view into the literary and emotional life of a gifted and insightful author. Her introspective and expressive talents will amply reward the reader who seeks understanding of another mind. I really must read more of Oates's work.
If you can get through all of the descriptions of other writers as warm, charming, and nice, there's a wealth of insight into her mind-boggling, incredibly productive process. I still don't know how I read this in one sitting.
Dec 09, 2007 Cherie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: JCO fans
Shelves: non-fiction
A- I cannot believe how Oates manages to teach and write so prolificly (fiction AND in her journals). Unlike my journal, she writes so eloquently, about style, writing, love…she has a rather comfortable and lovely life.
I really enjoyed this one. It's an interesting, revealing look into the conflicted, turbulent, yet fairly idyllic life or a successful novelist.
Nico Voss
I have not finished reading most of this book, but I know I will come back to it. High rating for anyone if you enjoy her writing style and philosophical ideas.
This will be one of my open-the-book-and-read books, much like Christopher Isherwood's was. I just bought it, so ignore the "date I read this book" -
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Joyce Carol Oates 2 11 Apr 14, 2011 07:42PM  
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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
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“Keeing busy" is the remedy for all the ills in America. It's also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.” 75 likes
“The ideal art, the noblest of art: working with the complexities of life, refusing to simplify, to "overcome" doubt.” 34 likes
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