What I Lived For

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At forty-two, Jerome Corcoran - "Corky" to his friends and associates - is by all appearances a successful real estate developer and broker, a city councilman with a promising future in local politics, a genuine ladies' man, and all-around great guy. His big house, fifteen-hundred-dollar suits, and the ridiculously large tips he hands out all over town reassure him that he's put plenty of distance between himself and the family history (which includes a murdered father and raving mad mother) he'd rather forget. ...
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Overview

At forty-two, Jerome Corcoran - "Corky" to his friends and associates - is by all appearances a successful real estate developer and broker, a city councilman with a promising future in local politics, a genuine ladies' man, and all-around great guy. His big house, fifteen-hundred-dollar suits, and the ridiculously large tips he hands out all over town reassure him that he's put plenty of distance between himself and the family history (which includes a murdered father and raving mad mother) he'd rather forget. Corky may think that his inauspicious beginnings on Irish Hill, one of Union City's shabbier neighborhoods, are now far behind him, but over the course of Memorial Day Weekend 1992, that precious illusion, along with several others, will be completely shattered. In the long list of Corky's women, only one looms larger for him than his own appetites and self-interest: Thalia, his rebellious, radicalized step-daughter from his failed marriage. It is she who will become the agent of his undoing as a complex drama of corruption, blackmail, and political scandal climaxes in an act of explosive violence.

A national bestseller, lauded as an "American Inferno . . . boldly inventive" (New York Times Book Review), Oates' searing portrait of one man's road to moral ruin delves deep into the contemporary psyche of a world in the midst of decline.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Another big novel from the prolific Oates, this tale of a successful middle-aged real estate developer whose hidden past surges up to wreak havoc on his present was one of PW's best books for 1994 and a PEN/Faulkner nominee. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Oates's latest novel is a big, breathless, complex, and sometimes painfully intense tale relating one man's every thought and move during the 1992 Memorial Day weekend. Corky Corcoran is a cocky, Irish Catholic, alcoholic, self-made millionaire as well as a city council member in Union City, New York. The turning point for Corky comes with the suicide of Marilee Plummer, a beautiful, politically ambitious black woman who had recently accused a black city council member of raping her. Even in his befuddled, alcoholic state, Corky wonders if his political friends had orchestrated Marilee's death and calls for a full investigation that antagonizes city government. Despite a somewhat contrived climax, Oates has created a remarkably detailed portrait of a man's life; however, Corky, an essentially stupid man whose actions are usually governed by his sexual or violent impulses, doesn't seem to merit such concentrated scrutiny. An interesting addition to Oates's body of work, this is recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/94.]-Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452272699
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/1995
  • Pages: 624
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates
In a prolific and varied oeuvre that ranges over essays, plays, criticism, and several genres of fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has proved herself one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world.

Biography

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.

A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college -- a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate.

Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor -- from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize -- and her fiction turns up with regularity on The New York Times annual list of Notable Books.

On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades – familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence – she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."

Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.

Good To Know

When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.

Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s.

In 2001, Oprah Winfrey selected Oates's novel We Were the Mulvaneys for her Book Club.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Rosamond Smith
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 16, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lockport, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

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