In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews
  • In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews
  • In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews

In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews

by Joyce Carol Oates
     
 

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“A poignant, nostalgic collection of literary criticism by one of America’s premier authors.”
Kirkus Reviews

 

In Rough Country is a sterling collection of essays, reviews, and criticism from Joyce Carol Oates that focuses on a wide array of books and writers—from Poe to Nabokov, from Flannery O’Connor

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Overview

“A poignant, nostalgic collection of literary criticism by one of America’s premier authors.”
Kirkus Reviews

 

In Rough Country is a sterling collection of essays, reviews, and criticism from Joyce Carol Oates that focuses on a wide array of books and writers—from Poe to Nabokov, from Flannery O’Connor to Phillip Roth. One of our foremost novelists, National Book Award and PEN/Malamud Award winner Oates demonstrates an unparalleled understanding and appreciation of great works of literature with In Rough Country, and offers unique and breathtaking insights into the writer’s art.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A bad joke says writing is easy if you don't know how to do it. This collection is a personal appreciation and piercing analysis of those who do it sublimely: Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Jean Stafford, Roald Dahl (considered in his adult work), Shirley Jackson, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, Claire Messud, and others. Oates is drawn to writers and themes that inform her own work, such as the gothic, the satiric, feminist theory, and a humanist bent that seems to have gone out of fashion. Readers of the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, or TLS will be familiar with these essays (though sometimes in different form or with different titles), divided into three parts—“Classics,” “Contemporaries,” and “Nostalgias.” Some essays—on the smothered brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer; on boxing; on Annie Leibovitz—are not strictly literary. In the Nostalgias section, Oates skewers American jingoism, notes the influence of Lewis Carroll on childhood, and returns to her source, Lockport, N.Y. Oates attributes the book's existence to the death of her husband of 48 years (reading gave shape to her “uncharted life as a widow”), but it is inspired as much by the subjects Oates so astutely describes. (June 29)
New York Times Book Review
“Oates writes like a woman who walks into rough country and doesn’t look back...long sentences unfold with great beauty, and [Oates’s] line of argument follows not an artificial arc but the natural course of thought.”
Kirkus Reviews
A poignant, nostalgic collection of literary criticism by one of America's premier authors, gathered in the aftermath of her husband's recent death. After 48 years of marriage, the author's husband, Ontario Review founder and editor Raymond Smith, died unexpectedly in February 2008. In a remarkably forthright and moving preface, Oates (A Fair Maiden, 2010, etc.) explains the emotionally fraught "rough terrain" from which many of these essays derived. For example, because she was working on "Boxing: History, Art, Culture" when her husband passed away, she could return to the essay "only sporadically, with a residual sort of excitement, as there might be observed, in the waning light of the iris of the eye of a decapitated beast." In these selections, divided into "Classics" (e.g., Poe, Dickinson, Malamud), "Contemporaries" (Updike, Doctorow, Rushdie, Atwood) and "Nostalgias" ("Nostalgia 1970: City on Fire"), the author effectively combines her highly tuned sensibilities, sharp research and concise, vivid prose. As a fiction writer of the highest order, Oates shares her subjects' writerly obsessions with mortality, loss and death. She recalls, for example, the oeuvre of Poe and its effect on her own early work, and of Emily Dickinson, who offered a "fusion of female stoicism and pragmatism." The author writes that Annie Leibovitz's recent book of photographs containing excruciating shots of her dying friend Susan Sontag has the "heft and intransigence of a grave marker." She admires the work of James Salter, whose heroines are "women in extremis, for whom all pretense has vanished," and the poetry of Sharon Olds for that "something subversive, even mutinous in the poet's unflinching child-eye." Always a teacher, Oates imbues each essay with a careful sifting of the evidence and consistently acute observations. A top-notch literary talent invites readers to find new inspiration in these works, and in her own.
Louisa Thomas
Oates's prose can be demanding, with her proclivity for slashes ("public/professional"; "celebrated/controversial"), long block quotes and list-making…Yet her writing is often exquisite. Long sentences unfold with great beauty, and her lines of argument follow not an artificial arc but the natural course of thought…Oates seems to take special, even unusual, pains not to bend her subjects into her own narrative. She is, instead, intensely focused on the books at hand, marking highlights, supplying context, guiding the reader through passage after passage. Her attention, even in a critic's mode, is unfailingly generous.
—The New York Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061963988
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/29/2010
Pages:
396
Sales rank:
931,808
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

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