Uncensored: Views and (Re)views
  • Uncensored: Views and (Re)views
  • Uncensored: Views and (Re)views

Uncensored: Views and (Re)views

by Joyce Carol Oates
     
 

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Uncensored: Views & (Re)views is Joyce Carol Oates's most candid gathering of prose pieces since (Woman) Writer: Occasions & Opportunities. Her ninth book of nonfiction, it brings together thirty-eight diverse and provocative pieces from the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York

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Overview

Uncensored: Views & (Re)views is Joyce Carol Oates's most candid gathering of prose pieces since (Woman) Writer: Occasions & Opportunities. Her ninth book of nonfiction, it brings together thirty-eight diverse and provocative pieces from the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York Times Book Review.

Oates states in her preface, "In the essay or review, the dynamic of storytelling is hidden but not absent," and indeed, the voice of these "conversations" echoes the voice of her fiction in its dramatic directness, ethical perspective, and willingness to engage the reader in making critical judgments. Under the heading "Not a Nice Person," such controversial figures as Sylvia Plath, Patricia Highsmith, and Muriel Spark are considered without sentimentality or hyperbole; under "Our Contemporaries, Ourselves," such diversely talented figures as William Trevor, E. L. Doctorow, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Connelly, Alice Sebold, Mary Karr, Anne Tyler, and Ann Patchett are examined. In sections of "homages" and "revisits," Oates writes with enthusiasm and clarity of such cultural icons as Emily Brontë, Ernest Hemingway, Carson McCullers, Robert Lowell, Balthus, and Muhammad Ali ("The Greatest"); after a lapse of decades, she (re)considers the first film version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Americana, Don DeLillo's first novel, as well as the morality of selling private letters and the nostalgic significance of making a pilgrimage to Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Through these balanced and illuminating essays we see Oates at the top of her form, engaged with forebears and contemporaries, providing clues to her own creative process: "For prose is a kind of music: music creates 'mood.' What is argued on the surface may be but ripples rising from a deeper, subtextual urgency."

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“Utterly at home in literature, she writes naturally about books with vigor and pleasure.”
A. O. Scott
There may be some books out there that Joyce Carol Oates hasn't written, but there don't seem to be very many that she hasn't read. She doesn't so much review individual books as assess entire bodies of work, sorting wheat from chaff and finding the point at which talent meets its limits. Among the objects of her careful, passionate scrutiny are Muriel Spark, Sylvia Plath, E. L. Doctorow and Anne Tyler, as well as a host of lesser-known novelists, memoirists and short-story writers.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
Oates (The Falls) prefaces this collection of 38 previously published book reviews by admonishing herself and questioning the role of the book critic. After 40 years of publishing original works and reviews, she has developed her own governing principle as a critic: to avoid reviewing books negatively, whenever possible. She justifies this stance by asking if in America we need to caution anyone against buying a book. With this in mind, the reader is then taken on a literary adventure, as the reviews analyze not only the works of a range of writers-from Anne Tyler to Muhammad Ali-but also the literary form from the short story to the memoir. These entries offer a broad literary history covering hundreds of titles. The reviews juxtapose each book with comparable works, leaving the reader with a reverence for Oates's immense knowledge of literature and a desire to read all the books mentioned. This collection shows a lovely appreciation for the value of a finely written book. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Joyce Sparrow, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas Cty., FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A seventh collection of the tireless Oates's industrious literary journalism: 38 recent reviews and essays. A grouping rather coyly titled "Not a Nice Person" includes understandably lukewarm considerations of the presently overrated Patricia Highsmith and the wildly uneven Sylvia Plath, a nicely reasoned defense of Willa Cather, and balanced assessments of Robert Penn Warren (whose classic All the King's Men is, Oates cogently argues, in its "restored text" version a deeply flawed novel) and Richard Yates (whose downbeat stories have a saving intensity that seems to elude her). Oates is a generous and perceptive commentator on "Our Contemporaries, Ourselves," notably E.L. Doctorow (whose City of God strike her as "that rarity in American fiction, a novel of ideas"); underrated British novelist Hilary Mantel; William Trevor (whose great strengths and frustrating weaknesses she deftly analyzes); and several writers (including Mary Karr, Alice Sebold, and Ann Patchett) of what Oates calls "the New Memoir: the memoir of sharply focused events, very often traumatic"). "Homages" include generic and only moderately interesting essays on Emily Bronte, Ernest Hemingway, and the painter Balthus-but also a welcome endorsement of Carson McCullers's brilliant early fiction and a summary meditation on the complex, often misunderstood figure of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Several concluding "(Re)Visits" look backward at Hawthorne, Thoreau, emergent major novelist Don DeLillo, Tod Browning's 1931 film Dracula, and the aesthetic choices that shaped her own earlier books, lately revised and reissued. Throughout, Oates writes clearly and states cases persuasively-but does tend to burdenreviews of individual books and writers with needlessly detailed contextual information (e.g., informing us that Ed McBain/Evan Hunter "virtually created" the contemporary police procedural). Nonetheless, it's useful to know what good writers are reading and thinking about, and if Oates the critic doesn't always dazzle, she seldom disappoints. Agent: John Hawkins/John Hawkins & Associates

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060775575
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/04/2006
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,235,590
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
June 16, 1938
Place of Birth:
Lockport, New York
Education:
B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

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