Joyce Carol Oates’ Rough Year

Joyce Carol Oates is making the interview rounds again—she’s about to release a new story collection, Dear Husband, which, oddly, doesn’t get mentioned in Chauncey Mabe‘s interview with her for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Doubly odd, because Topic A is the death of Oates’ husband, Raymond J. Smith, last year:

An English professor, scholar and editor of The Ontario Review, Smith shielded Oates, helping make her prodigious output possible.

“I’m living alone now, so I’m literally taking care of the household things he did,” Oates says. “He took care of them well, but really quietly. Suddenly all the finances fell to me, which is stressful.”

Though she notes in the interview that her infamous productivity has gone down since Smith’s death, this is still a busy year for her: A film version of her novella, Rape: A Love Story, is in the works, the Oates Web site Celestial Timepiece is making much of the fact that 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of her first published professional work, and more novels are in the pipeline. In September she’ll publish Little Bird of Heaven, which she described to San Diego CityBeat last November as “a love story in the guise of a mystery; or a mystery in the guise of a love story. Mostly it is an elegy mourning the passing of a way of life in a small city in upstate New York, hard hit by the economic recession of recent decades.” And in January 2010 she’s publish A Fair Maiden, a novel about a young girl who becomes a painter’s model.

At any rate, the pleasure in writing is still there for her, based on a few comments she made to the UK Guardian recently. You have to do it for love, she says, because there’s little point in doing it for money: “A prose fiction writer’s hourly wage, broken down into units, would be in the modest range of the US minimum wage of the 1950s—approximately $1 per hour.”

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