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The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  278 Ratings  ·  40 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
Marco Kaye
May 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Holly Woodward
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised at the depth and breadth of ideas in this journal she wrote for herself, with no intention of publishing it. It's heartening to see her commitment to the hard, isolating work. She also speaks passionately about teaching, though she famously said she doesn't give advice to writers, because she believes writers don't take advice. But she is interested in the exchange of ideas, and in supporting other writers. I would have loved to hear her tales out of school, but she's too noble t ...more
Josephine Ensign
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good lord, this woman is fascinating! Even within her journals. Or perhaps especially within her journals. I'm not a huge fan of much of her impressively prolific fiction (I did, however, love Blonde--but that is almost nonfiction), but she shines within her journals. Among other things, she obliquely addresses her acknowledged anorexia in these early journals. I love her descriptions of teaching--of why she loves it--and of how ephemeral it is compared with writing.
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.
Ted Gargiulo
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jan 03, 2008 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
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diary-format, writing
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
Laura J. W.
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
Thomas Fasano
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 02, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
J. D.
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Kept on my nightstand and finally finished! Provides a lot of insight and background to her life as wife, writer, friend. She strikes me as an introvert, one who likes company but does not require it unlike extroverts like me who will shrivel up if we don't get some attention! LOL!
Rachel Miller
Had to return to library before I got to finish this one.
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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
More about Joyce Carol Oates...

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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.” 85 likes
“The ideal art, the noblest of art: working with the complexities of life, refusing to simplify, to "overcome" doubt.” 39 likes
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