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The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  675 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Written with the raw honesty and poignant insight that were the hallmarks of her acclaimed bestseller A Widow’s Story, an affecting and observant memoir of growing up from one of our finest and most beloved literary masters

The Lost Landscape is Joyce Carol Oates’ vivid chronicle of her hardscrabble childhood in rural western New York State. From memories of her relatives
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  675 ratings  ·  128 reviews

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Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, audible, bio, 2015-read
I finished The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age a memoir by Joyce Carol Oates which is excellently narrated by Cassandra Campbell. The author expresses herself obliquely, meaning you need time to think. Campbell gives you time to think and reads the novel in a soft, reflective, contemplative voice. I gave it three stars - which really does mean I liked it and can recommend it to others.

I like what I got, but I wanted more. Of course the author doesn’t have notes from her childhood years
Diane S ☔
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
From her beginning memories living on the farm with her grandparents, parents and "Happy Chicken" through her school years, her love for libraries and books, meeting her husband, their time in Detroit and other places, Oates takes us on a journey through her memories. As she explains memories are not linear, they come as tidbits, snapshots, and I so agree. Her writing is so clear, straightforward, and so very interesting.

She does mention many of her books, why they were written, what she was tr
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, writers
“For never underestimate…. the power of place.” p. 271

This memoir is a series of essays written over a 30+ year period, many of which have been published before. They flow together nicely with only two twice introduced items. Like all collections, some essays are better than others. They range from “Food Mysteries” which I would give a single star to “An Unsolved Mystery: The Lost Friend” which I consider a 5 star telling of teenage best friend anxieties.

I almost didn’t read it. The book begins
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"What is vivid in memory is the singular, striking, one-of-a-kind event or episode, encapsulated as if in amber.... not routine but what violates routine.
Which is why the effort of writing a memoir is so fraught with peril, and even its small successes ringed by melancholy. The fact is - We have forgotten most of our lives. All of our landscapes are soon lost in time."

The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates is a very highly recommended collection of 28 pieces about her childhood, to adulthood an
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I absolutely cannot read Oates' fiction, but I love her biographical books, and this one is no exception. She is several years older than I, but I can relate to many things about her life. Loved the rural upper NY state stuff; the one room schoolhouse and so on. I am gradually coming to understand why she writes as she does....but that doesn't make me want to read it. I am so envious of her relationship with her parents. She does not tell; she shows, and you feel that you are there. I could even ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
While this collection of memories definitely deals with the author’s emergence as an accomplished writer, parts of it focused on things which intrigued me more – her childhood, Edward Hopper like images of bygone days, immigrant grandparents, and her impressions of several young friends who’d endured terrible traumas. Surfacing throughout the various vignettes is a clear love and respect for her hardworking parents. The author deals thoughtfully with the passage of time, and the resulting erosio ...more
Erica T
Sep 13, 2018 marked it as didn-t-finish
Maybe I’ll try it again another time but the Happy Chicken story is really annoying me, partly due to the fact that Happy Chicken is telling the story but switches back and forth from 1st to 3rd person constantly.
Sam Sattler
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, memoir
My friends know that I have long been fascinated by the fiction of Joyce Carol Oates. I seldom agree with the author’s political views (especially as displayed daily on her personal Twitter account), but her novels and short stories are so dark and revealing of the depths of the human soul that I have often wondered what could have shaped Oates into the writer she is. Over the years, Oates has revealed bits and pieces of her childhood in magazine articles and books, but it is her new memoir, The ...more
Lucinda Monica
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Janet Zehr, Doug Wasson, Jessica Seares, Pamela Hale, Rebecca Pamela,
I adored this book from beginning to end. Reading this memoir of the author's early childhood, her family in Niagara County, NY in the 1940's and the beautiful and scary tales of her life help the reader to understand the seeds of her writing. I had the good fortune of meeting Joyce Carol Oates last year and talking with her briefly at a writer's seminar. She explained that she likes to be a voice for those who do not have a voice, such as victims of sexual abuse, people with mental illness, sma ...more
Margot Note
It's no surprise that I love JCO. I also loved this book. I saw her read from it at a recent event at the Morgan.

1. The Vogue photo shoot after JCO received the National Book Award (which produced the well-known picture of her) was interrupted by the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion by the Weathermen.

2. The University of Wisconsin at Madison declined her as a PhD candidate but later granted her a honorary doctorate. If she had become a PhD she would've most likely not been a writer. (This
Oct 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm a fan of Oates, and I've read several of JCO's previous memoirs and really think this one is the weakest.

As I moved through it, I felt that the book didn't have the essential Oates-ness of her earlier memoir pieces. I'm thinking especially of Widow's Story, her book about the death of her husband and the aftermath of that death. That book revealed something profound to me about Oates that I felt she wanted to share with me.

The Lost Landscapes book didn't have that. I kept waiting and waiti
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Joyce Carol Oates is such a beautiful writer, and this memoir casts light upon events, circumstances, and people from her life. She grew up in rural upstate New York, and I enjoyed reading her early memories of her love and friendship of her red hen and what she took from growing up on a farm. It seems no one escapes the lessons learned from school experiences and interactions with friends, and Oates shares a poignant relationship with a tormented high school friend and about her college and gra ...more
Freda Witt
Dec 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
Don't read this unless someone is holding a gun to your head.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The name Joyce Carol Oates sounded vaguely familiar to me, although I’d never read any of her books. But “The Lost Landscape,” by her, ended up on my to-read list, and the library had it in kindle form. Thus it made it onto my Kindle for reading material during my trip to Germany.

The Lost Landscape is autobiographical. Rather than being written as a book, it’s a series of essays, many of which Oates had published somewhere else previously. Apparently she’s a pretty big deal as a literary writer,
Christina McLain
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an exceptional and compelling book. Instead of concentrating on a chronological memoir which many writers would do, Oates gives us a series of thematic meditations on her family, her life as a young woman and her career as a prolific writer who came of age in the radical 1960's, in that most turbulent of democracies--America. Recently criticized for being politically incorrect for some of her Tweets, her voice is uncompromising and individual. Joyce Carol Oates grew up in a lo ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oates plays with the notion of memoir, remembering her childhood and young adulthood (mostly) through the lives of her parents and pet chicken. (Seriously, that chicken chapter almost did me in. It was twee and annoying and even a little creepy.) She deals with the issues of her rural childhood obliquely and sometimes diverts attention from herself completely by telling the stories of girls she knew in school. I think it is especially telling how much she dwells on the way violence defines her p ...more
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I found myself really liking the Joyce Carol Oates that came across in this memoir of hers. She is a woman of deep feeling and immense imagination...she reveals much of her country childhood and simple upbringing and through it all runs a thread of understanding and appreciativeness that is palpable on the page. She exudes intense love for her history and for the people in her life, especially her parents to whom she dedicated many of her books, even as she tells us about the craziness lurking a ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Chapter One began with brief, almost diary-like entries, that quickly engaged me. Chapter Two was spoken by Happy Chicken, letting me know this would be unlike any other memoir I’ve read:

(After Joyce called ‘Happy Chicken!’) “And there I come running!...Here I am! I am Happy Chicken!

The Grandfather shook his head in disbelief. Never saw anything like this – Damn little chicken thinks he’s a dog!”

I hated saying goodbye to Happy Chicken, but it was time for Oates to tell her own story. Most, i
Dec 19, 2015 rated it liked it
This is my first book by Joyce Carol Oates. I realized afterwards that she is a prolific writer who once lived in Windsor, Ontario. This book appears to be her recollections and a hodgepodge of elements from her previous publications. She is a very good writer and this memoir contains selected pieces about her early childhood, schooling, friends, university experience, with some information on parents and grandparents as she dared to tell.

She mentioned several times in the book that she respect
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not a big fan of her fiction, but I teach and write memoir, so I picked this one up and am I glad I did! Though when I got to the chapter written by her pet chicken, I rolled my eyes. She is such a good writer that I couldn't stop reading what the chicken said!

Some of her childhood and adolescent memories foreshadow what she will write about in her novels: incest, murder, child abuse. The lost landscape of her youth (and mine) is poignantly portrayed - rural western New York State, the 1960s. Di
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Couldn't make up my mind if I liked this book or not; parts of it spoke to me bringing up childhood memories (Sunday drives, etc.), other parts were boring. It is a book to be reread and pndered; probably won’t reread it, that’s not me, like to move on to other things. Favorite quotes – At 24% “…my father who thought a thunderstorm was an occasion for rejoicing and not cowering indoors.” I love a good storm. “A child sees her father at a little distance…is baffled and thrilled by her father in p ...more
Judy G
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read many of Joyce Carol Oates books and will continue. This is her memoir not her autobiography. It is Outstanding. She is so so authentically herself. She begins with herself as a child in upstate New York on a farm with her family including grandparents. She is Joyce's Happy Chicken as a beginning.
I dont fully understand how she has been able to delve into the lives and psyches of the disturbed. Yes there were some unusual things with her family yet nothing Dark. Most important is her pare
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. Autobiographies are not my favorite genre. But I have grown to love Joyce Carol Oates in the last few years, and reading this book (written in 2015) has inspired me to go back and discover her earlier works. This was a beautiful tribute to JCO's parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and people she stumbled upon while growing up. Her childhood, her adolescence, her young adult life, her recent years. The meaning that her heritage held f ...more
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not sure really. There's no need to say that Oates is an accomplished writer, and it would probably be patronising to do so. Yet, this is compromised by the book's fragmentary construction.Even though Oates does say that a number of the chapters have been published elsewhere I still found it hard to really acknowledge this and simply enjoy the book. The book is filled with tragedy and heartache and there are a few glimpses of moments in her life linking to her work. Still I found the book hard t ...more
While I do appreciate everything Joyce Carol Oates writes, I'm not a fan of memoirs by anyone so I was pleasantly surprised by how fascinating I found this. Part of the credit is due to Cassandra Campbell's spending narration, but this is also simply an interesting look at the development of a writer and explores her intellectual and personal lives with great insight. The picture of growing up in the 50s in rural America also struck a chord with me. Warmhearted, inviting, informative, entertaini ...more
Dick Hamilton
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
While I am clearly biased towards anything written by Joyce Carol Oates, I think her fans, and all others, will enjoy this book.
Susan Ozment
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Roberts
Sep 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Right, you're going to tell me if you had the money,

you wouldn't pay the perennially redundant author Joyce Carol Oates

ten-million American dollars and no cents to stop writing,

to cease her by-the-numbers narratives which slowly and insidiously sap you strength as a reader,

leaving you feeling hopeless and absent intellectual succor,

this writer lady has made you jaded and thinking all other books are

like hers, and they are...wait...they are, they really, really are!

what am I doing here? wh
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A list of quotes from this memoir that spoke to me:

"Out of the boredom of the pew, how many stories and poems have sprung! In desperation the Catholic writer learns young how to harvest the imagination where she/he can, in very defiance of those who would trap us in their nets and hold us captive." (pg 133)

"Loneliness weakens. Aloneness empowers." (pg 136)

"To posses something is to be vulnerable to losing it: possession is audacity in the face of imminent loss." (pg 184)

"At the roadside stand I
Kim Miller-Davis
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book in August, but stopped once the fall semester began. I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to return to it except that maybe I subconsciously waited until I had time for contemplation and reflection. I'm glad I saved it for now.

There is not any other contemporary writer who can layer a text with meaning the way Joyce Carol Oates can. Not only is this a memoir, it is also a philosophical exploration of cultural issues and of the importance of literature and langua
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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
“Words are like wild birds - they will come when they wish, not when they are bidden.” 2 likes
“I think we are all cats with nine lives, or even more. We must rejoice in our elusive catness.” 1 likes
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