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The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,016 ratings  ·  122 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 suited tmethod

Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published (first published 2003)
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Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lady-writers
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 somewhat saved by t"On
Emma Sea
meh. dnf at p. 182. i think i have no soul.
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'
Hanje Richards
One of my challenges this year is to read one essay a day. 365 essays in the course of the year. To that end, I have been exposing myself to essays by a variety of writers, some familiar to me, some not. I was actually searching for something else by Joyce Carol Oates, when I happened upon this small volume and thought I would give it a try.

By the time I finished this book, sadly I was pretty convinced that in spite of the fact that I have been telling people for the past two year that I write
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Paula Cappa
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the art of writing. Oates tells us that 'writing is not a race ... the satisfaction is in the effort.' She presents what is important to the narrative craft and so much here is like a good meal. She writes a whole chapter here on failure: are artists (writers) secretly in love with failure? I especially liked her examples on how to read as a writer, and, her thoughts on the destructive self-criticism that so many writers struggle with. If you are a writer who desires to unders ...more
Jayce Williams
To a Young Writer, What Sin to Me Unknown..., and My Faith as a Writer were extremely compelling. Other than that...I love Joyce Carol Oates, but her masturbation of literary references was tiring and inelegant; it was as if she was just showing off her extensive knowledge of literature instead of using it to make her point. That said, this is a great anthology of titles to which any young writer (or reader) might return in the future. But the work as a whole felt, at times, self-indulgent. We g ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love JCO! This book blows my mind. I don't know whether to return it to the library or start it over tonight. It's one I'll definitely end up going back & copying half of word for word into my journal. Wow. I wish I could buy a copy for every young person, especially every young woman, I know who wants to be a Writer.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
omg. i love joyce carol oates.
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Khulud Khamis
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always enjoy reading books about the process of writing by writers whom I admire. This little book has quite many insights, and is a quick read. I especially enjoyed the chapter on running and writing, as I myself also run and usually get inspiration when I'm running, and untangle some structural issues. The chapter on reading as a writer: the artist as craftsman was a bit tedious and not what I expected. But overall, the book is clear, and Oates is a writer who writes about her process of wri ...more
“I have to tell is the writer’s first thoughts; the second thought is How do I tell it? From our reading, we discover how various the solutions to these questions are; how stamped with an individual’s personality. For it’s at the junction of private vision and the wish to create a communal, public vision that art and craft merge.” p. 126

I have not read anything by Oates in at least a decade. I liked what I have read, but I am overwhelmed by the volume of her writing. When a new Oates book com
Kate Campbell
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Santino Prinzi
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mindblowingly insightful.
Curtis Runstedler
Great book alongside Stephen King's On Writing for all those who love to read and write and aspiring writers. I love how JCO clearly loves to read and write and loves to think and is unafraid to confront our innermost fears and social taboos. She writes beautifully and concisely and offers interesting insights into why we write and different ways to think about writing and the craft. Such a beautiful mind and a great source of inspiration. With under 40 novels under her belt and many more short ...more
Elizabeth Houseman
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Though this book was not what I was expecting, I very much enjoyed reading it.

Joyce Carol Oates is such a big name that I thought I’d take some writing advice from her. However, this book ended up being thoughts on writing instead of advice on writing. Regardless of that fact, I enjoyed peeking into JCO’s mind, seeing her thoughts on reading like a writer, and reading her opinions on the classics.

I’m not sure how much I learned about writing in these essays, but I have absolutely no
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's somewhat of an informative manual on writing, but overall it's a rambling and self-indulgent essay collection that just simply talks about some of Ms Oates favorite books, and her own inspirations. I wish there was more of a "how to" or what makes writing effective section, especially for struggling readers and writers. It's an indulgent tone deaf work that strives to be something greater than it is.
Milton Brasher-Cunningham
This is a rich collection of essays about writing, rather than a planned instruction book. Oates writes widely and profoundly about what it means to be a writer and work to express what one sees in the world. She quoted Henry James as saying the artist is one, ideally, upon whom nothing is lost. Oates does her best to live up to that definition.
Kris Heyvaert
May 02, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting at times, but mostly a dry rendering of the life of an author with an academic background, which includes a lot of namedropping and referencing to the mainstream (mostly English) literary canon. The book contains little on the 'life' of a writer, some phrases on 'craft', but a LOT on Art with a capital 'A(rtist)'. Too much self-importance to be earnest...
Stanley Turner
A good read with some excellent information. At times I feel she drifts from her topic in a couple of the chapters, which detract from the work. The autobiographical sections were very good. A good book for those interested in writers...SLT
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I underlined something on almost every other page.
"What is your work schedule, one writer asks another, never What are the great themes of your books?--for the question is, of course, in code, and really implies Are you perhaps crazier than I?--and will you elaborate?"
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the more personal pieces where she talks about her life or her writing process. I found the other essays well-written, but dry.
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite similar to what you'd discuss in a creative writing class. If you enjoy writers' talks, you'll enjoy this one.
Prooost Davis
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A light, friendly book of essays about writing. Especially fine, I thought, was the chapter called "Reading as a Writer: The Artist as Craftsman."
John Addiego
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A nice collection of essays on writing. The one on Inspiration was especially good.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good point of reference for writers.
Ben Palpant
A few gems.
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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 Lauren Kelly.
“The novel is the affliction for which only the novel is the cure.” 6 likes
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