Just added to Celestial Timepiece are introductions to two of the most recent anthologies edited by Joyce Carol Oates.
In the introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories 2005, JCO recounts the history of violence and mystery in both her mother’s and father’s families, and notes that it’s not an irony that she’s drawn to this kind of material as a writer. She continues, “There is no art in violence, only crude, cruel, raw, and irremediable harm, but there can be art in the strategies by which violence is endured, transcended, and transformed by survivors. Where there is no meaning, both death and life can seem pointless, but where meaning can be discovered, perhaps even violence can be redeemed, to a degree.”
For The Best New American Vocies 2003, JCO writes at length on the nature of writing workshops in general (“the question is often asked, naively and aggressively, ‘How can “creative writing” be taught?’ Though it’s taken for granted that young people in music, art, and drama work with instructors, it seems somehow unnatural that young writers may want to work with more experienced writers in workshop situations. Obviously, there’s a common misconception of what happens in writing workshops”); and her own writing workshops in particular (“we proceed with the assumption that we’re a gathering of dedicated, highly professional editors on a magazine or literary quarterly. We aren’t editors who have the luxury of rejecting: We ‘accept’ all the material that’s submitted to us, and our task, as editors, is to provide editorial advice to the writer that will allow for significant revision”).
Much fascinating material is “lost” in JCO’s introductions, forewords, and prefaces, as many of them are never reprinted in JCO’s essay collections or elsewhere. Particularly interesting pieces from edited anthologies can be found in Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, American Gothic Tales, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, The Best American Essays 1991, The Best American Short Stories 1979, and Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers, among others. All of the JCO-edited anthologies can be found here.
This is what I thought when reading Joyce Carol Oates’ novels. There had to be a chain of violence in her ancestors’ lives because she is so preoccupied with this topic. The author knows what she is writing about, because she probably experienced it herself. Her way of transcending by writing is beautiful, the marks of a true artist.