Unlike anything Joyce Carol Oates has written before, A Widow’s Story is the universally acclaimed author’s poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of Raymond Smith, her husband of forty-six years, and its wrenching, surprising aftermath. A recent recipient of National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Oates, whose novels (Blonde, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, Little Bird of Heaven, etc.) rank among the very finest in contemporary American fiction, offers an achingly personal story of love and loss. A Widow’s Story is a literary memoir on a par with The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and Calvin Trillin’s About Alice.
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 several times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. Her most recent novel is A Book of American Martyrs. 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.
Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
June 16, 1938
Place of Birth:
Lockport, New York
B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961
February 15, 2008. Returning to our car that has been haphazardly parkedby meon a narrow side street near the Princeton Medical CenterI see, thrust beneath a windshield wiper, what appears to be a sheet of stiff paper. At once my heart clenches in dismay, guilty ap- prehensiona ticket? A parking ticket? At such a time? Earlier that afternoon I'd parked here on my wayhurried, harrieda jangle of admonitions running through my head like shrieking cicadasif you'd happened to see me you might have thought pityingly That woman is in a desperate hurryas if that will do any goodto visit my husband in the Telemetry Unit of the medical center where he'd been admitted several days previously for pneumonia; now I need to return home for a few hours preparatory to returning to the medical center in the early eve- ninganxious, dry-mouthed and head-aching yet in an aroused state that might be called hopefulfor since his admission into the medical center Ray has been steadily improving, he has looked and felt better, and his oxygen intake, measured by numerals that fluctuate with liter- ally each breath90, 87, 91, 85, 89, 92is steadily gaining, arrangements are being made for his discharge into a rehab clinic close by the medical center(hopeful is our solace in the face of mortality); and now, in the late afternoon of another of these interminable and exhausting hospital- dayscan it be that our car has been ticketed?in my distraction I'd parked illegally?the time limit for parking on this street is only two hours, I've been in the medical center for longer than two hours, and see with embarrassment that our 2007 Honda Accordeerily glaring- white in February dusk like some strange phosphorescent creature in the depths of the seais inexpertly, still more inelegantly parked, at a slant to the curb, left rear tire over the white line in the street by several inches, front bumper nearly touching the SUV in the space ahead. But nowif this is a parking ticketat once the thought comes to me I won't tell Ray, I will pay the fine in secret.
Except the sheet of paper isn't a ticket from the Princeton Police De- partment after all but a piece of ordinary paperopened and smoothed out by my shaky hand it's revealed as a private message in aggressively large block-printed letters which with stunned staring eyes I read several times like one faltering on the brink of an abysslearn to park stuppid bitch.
In this way as in that parable of Franz Kafka in which the most profound and devastating truth of the individual's life is revealed to him by a passer-by in the street, as if accidentally, casually, so the Widow-to-Be, like the Widow, is made to realize that her situation however unhappy, despairing or fraught with anxiety, doesn't give her the right to overstep the boundaries of others, especially strangers who know nothing of her"Left rear tire over the white line in the street."
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