In twenty nine provocative essays, Joyce Carol Oates maps the rough country that is both the treacherous geographical and psychological terrain of the writers she so cogently analyzes Flannery O Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, E L Doctorow, and Margaret Atwood, among others and the emotional terrain of Oates s own life following the unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith, after forty eight years of marriage As literature is a traditional solace to the bereft, so writing about literature can be a solace, as it was to me when the effort of writing fiction seemed beyond me, as if belonging to another lifetime, Oates writes Reading and taking notes, especially late at night when I can t sleep, has been the solace, for me, that saying the Rosary or reading The Book of Common Prayer might be for another The results of those meditations are the essays of In Rough Country balanced and illuminating investigations that demonstrate an artist working at the top of her form


10 thoughts on “In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews

  1. Jim Jim says:

    It is a shame that Joyce Carol Oates has not won the Nobel Prize for literature Every time I read one of her works, I becomeconvinced that she is deserving of farthan she has received from public acclaim In Rough Country Essays and Reviews is a recent book of essays concentrating especially on Miss Oates s views of women authors, from Flannery O Connor, Annie Proulx, Emily Dickinson, and a number of Canadians Particularly good is her essay on the works of Cormac McCarthy It is a shame that Joyce Carol Oates has not won the Nobel Prize for literature Every time I read one of her works, I becomeconvinced that she is deserving of farthan she has received from public acclaim In Rough Country Essays and Reviews is a recent book of essays concentrating especially on Miss Oates s views of women authors, from Flannery O Connor, Annie Proulx, Emily Dickinson, and a number of Canadians Particularly good is her essay on the works of Cormac McCarthy


  2. Athena Athena says:

    I won a copy of this book through First Reads and I enjoyed Oates insights into authors and their works Her reviews are both unique and well thought out.I wasn t at all sure how I would like the book because I tried to read We Were the Mulvaneys years ago and gave up because it was so awful In essay form, at least, Oates is a good writer and I now have hope that I might like some of her fiction.She had me with her through most of In Rough Country That is, up until she praised poet Sharon Old I won a copy of this book through First Reads and I enjoyed Oates insights into authors and their works Her reviews are both unique and well thought out.I wasn t at all sure how I would like the book because I tried to read We Were the Mulvaneys years ago and gave up because it was so awful In essay form, at least, Oates is a good writer and I now have hope that I might like some of her fiction.She had me with her through most of In Rough Country That is, up until she praised poet Sharon Olds to the skies and called her rather offensive letter to Laura Bush rejecting an invitation to the National Book Festival a model of tact and integrity It was around this point that Oates unfortunate political and social views, America bashing, and description of God as imaginary became too much for me I had to push myself to finish the last section of the book This was something I has not been able to make myself do with We Were the Mulvaneys, so that s progress, I suppose But I suspect the progress is mine rather than hers Years ago, I was probably unable to finish the novel in large part because I was only in high school and I hadn t yet learned to slog through a book I didn t like The last section of In Rough Country the only one I didn t enjoy reading is mostly about Oates personal experiences and lack of a literary mentor It has nothing of the zest of the previous reviews and essays


  3. Nadia King Nadia King says:

    Highly recommended Illuminating insights into writers such as Flannery O Connor, Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood.


  4. Charity Charity says:

    4.5 StarsI m a big fan of literary criticism and of book reviews, in general, so it should come as no surprise that I tore through this book with unremitting fervor Joyce Carol Oates has an amazingly eloquent style although, she is a little too fond of the word amalgamget a thesaurus, Joyce and I was practically giddy reading each page Through her essays I learned much about Oates as a writer and person Through her reviews I learned muchabout books and authors that I d already rea 4.5 StarsI m a big fan of literary criticism and of book reviews, in general, so it should come as no surprise that I tore through this book with unremitting fervor Joyce Carol Oates has an amazingly eloquent style although, she is a little too fond of the word amalgamget a thesaurus, Joyce and I was practically giddy reading each page Through her essays I learned much about Oates as a writer and person Through her reviews I learned muchabout books and authors that I d already read and of course, I added several unreads to my colossal to be read pile To those who never get tired of reading book reviews and essays for information and inspiration, I highly recommend First Reads Win


  5. Pamela Scott Pamela Scott says:

    really enjoyed this collection of essays and reviews by one of my favourite writers I ve never read a collection of non fiction essays and reviews before so wasn t sure what to expect The writers JCO discusses within these pages are wide and far ranging from Shirley Jackson and Sharon Olds to Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood Many of the writers discussed are writers I rate highly which made these particular essays reviews a bitenjoyable This really enjoyed this collection of essays and reviews by one of my favourite writers I ve never read a collection of non fiction essays and reviews before so wasn t sure what to expect The writers JCO discusses within these pages are wide and far ranging from Shirley Jackson and Sharon Olds to Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood Many of the writers discussed are writers I rate highly which made these particular essays reviews a bitenjoyable This book would not suit everyone as it caters to specific tastes but I thoroughly enjoyed it


  6. John John says:

    As with most of the writing of Joyce Carol Oates, intelligent, measured, and thoughtful From a standpoint of literary reviews, the looks at Emily Dickinson, Cormac McCarthy, and Sharon Olds are excellent A stand out essay is on the writer James Salter, who must be one of the most underrated American writers of the last century as Oates points out And the tribute to her friend John Updike is nicely done, as well.


  7. Rgrice Rgrice says:

    The essay on Cormac McCarthy is brilliant.


  8. Jim Jim says:

    Joyce Carol Oates is a protean writer That is her writing demonstrates a diversity and fecundity of style that is exceptional although not unique in my experience Rather than devoting herself to one style or theme and honing that over many stories and novels, she has explored myriad ways to tell stories over a career that has producedthan three dozen novels not counting those she has written under a pseudonym I remember being mesmerized by the beauty of Wonderland however not nearly Joyce Carol Oates is a protean writer That is her writing demonstrates a diversity and fecundity of style that is exceptional although not unique in my experience Rather than devoting herself to one style or theme and honing that over many stories and novels, she has explored myriad ways to tell stories over a career that has producedthan three dozen novels not counting those she has written under a pseudonym I remember being mesmerized by the beauty of Wonderland however not nearly as impressed with the tragic family saga We Were the Mulvaneys and unable to finish tomes like Bellefleur I even read and enjoyed one of her entertainments written under a pseudonym It is not surprising that she is widely read, and a prescient critic of literature There is a double meaning for this collection of previously published literary essays and reviews, In Rough Country It refers to both the treacherous geographic psychological terrains of the writers who are my subjects And also the emotional terrain of my life, she writes in the preface It s an especially evocative parallel when you consider a pair of essays in the collection also titled In Rough Country set apart from each other with Roman numerals In the first, she examines the ecstatic violence of Cormac McCarthy s work, in the second the brutal naturalism of Annie Proulx s fiction Rough country, indeed.Thus it is her skill at criticism that is on display in this readable collection of essays Just as she has with her own fiction and poetry, she displays a variety of interests and styles sometimes regaling the reader with biographical morsels, as in her essay on Edgar Allan Poe I appreciated learning that some of my formative reading paralleled Oates even as I admire her criticism and the immensity of her oeuvre


  9. Jim Krotzman Jim Krotzman says:

    Parts of the book of criticism is slow, especially that which describes books I haven t yet read I do hope to read some that Oates discusses, but not all She covers many books, novels and poetry She did raise some questions for me 1 Is the great American novel supposed to alter the consciousness of the times 2 Does place have the power to infiltrate the soul 3 If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm it I know that is poetry If I feel physically that the t Parts of the book of criticism is slow, especially that which describes books I haven t yet read I do hope to read some that Oates discusses, but not all She covers many books, novels and poetry She did raise some questions for me 1 Is the great American novel supposed to alter the consciousness of the times 2 Does place have the power to infiltrate the soul 3 If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm it I know that is poetry If I feel physically that the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry Is there any other way Emily Dickinson 4 Is it all right to exploit your personal life in your writing 5 Would art be richer if the self were richer 6 If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind, would he not have done so by now Some of the writers discussed in this book are the following Edgar Allen Poe, Roald Dahl, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O Connor, Annei Proulx her Wyoming stories , James Salter, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro These are just a few of the writers she covers


  10. Christine Christine says:

    I read this book a few months back and reviewed it but that review has somehow disappeared As I no longer have the book but have given it away I will try to recall its merits I was drawn to the book by its title and its mention of many authors who are favorites of mine However, in reading the book I found I had little in common with the author and her reviews of the other writer s works It seemed as if we had read totally different books by the same name Oates likes to draw on the dark side I read this book a few months back and reviewed it but that review has somehow disappeared As I no longer have the book but have given it away I will try to recall its merits I was drawn to the book by its title and its mention of many authors who are favorites of mine However, in reading the book I found I had little in common with the author and her reviews of the other writer s works It seemed as if we had read totally different books by the same name Oates likes to draw on the dark side of the authors which is quite easy to do when you are reviewing Edgar Allen Poe but not the children s writer Roald Dahl How can you review an author in Gothic attitude who writes A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men I tried to get through the book but I could not complete the task Perhaps I have too sunny an attitude I will leave it for those who are a biterudite and dark in heart