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A tribute to the brilliant craftsmanship of one of our most distinguished writers, providing valuable insight into her inspiration and her method Joyce Carol Oates is widely regarded as one of America's greatest contemporary literary figures. Having written in a number of genres -- prose, poetry, personal and critical essays, as well as plays -- she is an artist ideally sui A tribute to the brilliant craftsmanship of one of our most distinguished writers, providing valuable insight into her inspiration and her method Joyce Carol Oates is widely regarded as one of America's greatest contemporary literary figures. Having written in a number of genres -- prose, poetry, personal and critical essays, as well as plays -- she is an artist ideally suited to answer essential questions about what makes a story striking, a novel come alive, a writer an artist as well as a craftsman. In The Faith of a Writer, Oates discusses the subjects most important to the narrative craft, touching on topics such as inspiration, memory, self-criticism, and "the unique power of the unconscious." On a more personal note, she speaks of childhood inspirations, offers advice to young writers, and discusses the wildly varying states of mind of a writer at work. Oates also pays homage to those she calls her "significant predecessors" and discusses the importance of reading in the life of a writer. Oates claims, "Inspiration and energy and even genius are rarely enough to make 'art': for prose fiction is also a craft, and craft must be learned, whether by accident or design." In fourteen succinct chapters, The Faith of a Writer provides valuable lessons on how language, ideas, and experience are assembled to create art.


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A tribute to the brilliant craftsmanship of one of our most distinguished writers, providing valuable insight into her inspiration and her method Joyce Carol Oates is widely regarded as one of America's greatest contemporary literary figures. Having written in a number of genres -- prose, poetry, personal and critical essays, as well as plays -- she is an artist ideally sui A tribute to the brilliant craftsmanship of one of our most distinguished writers, providing valuable insight into her inspiration and her method Joyce Carol Oates is widely regarded as one of America's greatest contemporary literary figures. Having written in a number of genres -- prose, poetry, personal and critical essays, as well as plays -- she is an artist ideally suited to answer essential questions about what makes a story striking, a novel come alive, a writer an artist as well as a craftsman. In The Faith of a Writer, Oates discusses the subjects most important to the narrative craft, touching on topics such as inspiration, memory, self-criticism, and "the unique power of the unconscious." On a more personal note, she speaks of childhood inspirations, offers advice to young writers, and discusses the wildly varying states of mind of a writer at work. Oates also pays homage to those she calls her "significant predecessors" and discusses the importance of reading in the life of a writer. Oates claims, "Inspiration and energy and even genius are rarely enough to make 'art': for prose fiction is also a craft, and craft must be learned, whether by accident or design." In fourteen succinct chapters, The Faith of a Writer provides valuable lessons on how language, ideas, and experience are assembled to create art.

30 review for The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    A rich and prolific literary life—this is the reason why the young reader should prick up his ears, pick up The Faith of a Writer, and begin to discern the secret of JCO’s success. Her first invaluable gem of wisdom? “Young or beginning writers must be urged to read widely, ceaselessly, both classics and contemporaries, for without an immersion in the history of the craft, one is doomed to remain an amateur: an individual for whom enthusiasm is ninety-nine percent of the creative effort." Which A rich and prolific literary life—this is the reason why the young reader should prick up his ears, pick up The Faith of a Writer, and begin to discern the secret of JCO’s success. Her first invaluable gem of wisdom? “Young or beginning writers must be urged to read widely, ceaselessly, both classics and contemporaries, for without an immersion in the history of the craft, one is doomed to remain an amateur: an individual for whom enthusiasm is ninety-nine percent of the creative effort." Which means that only readers become writers—already, this has been highlighted over and over ad nauseum by the likes of Stephen King, Francine Prose, Mario Vargas Llosa & plenty others. Of course, her “faith as a writer” is her personal poetics themselves—already on page one she has set down her beliefs; the core of her craft. “The individual voice,” she tells us, “is the communal voice. The regional voice is the universal voice." Musing about the origin of your reading addiction is a pleasant and constant activity. JCO makes us all sigh in relief when she recalls her first memories with literature. Although I particularly abhor the Alice books, I do agree with JCO in her assessment that as a child, the allure of books contained the “voices of adult authenticity." Wanting to grow up, indeed, goes hand in hand with constantly reading about adult themes and situations. When in elementary school, the avid reader, the smart kid, finds that there are riches beyond his wildest dreams in books by King, and Anne Rice, and anything that is strange and fascinating, and he finally leaves behind short adolescent novels by the likes of R. L. Stine, Stephanie Meyer, and Judy Blume. In “To a Young Writer” we are once more showered with damn good advice. A list: 1) “your struggle…your emotions…make possible hours, days, weeks, months and years of what will appear to others…as ‘work’.” 2) Don’t lose courage or compare yourself to others (“if you want confirmation of your essential worthlessness, you can always find it, somewhere"). 3) “Write for your own time, if not for your own generation exclusively." 4) “immerse” yourself in whatever strikes you—be as idealist, romantic, “yearning” as you wish, for this will come to your aid. 5) And Write your heart out, she repeats and repeats, like some magic, poetic mantra. Again, a sigh of relief emanates from me, with JCO’s advice #3. I write contemporary stuff—so that’s clearly a plus—it certainly does inspire relief. One facet of the writer’s life no other writer has, to my knowledge, made mere mention of as of yet is that of failure. In “Notes on Failure” JCO wisely tells her readers that the writer is a bizarre creature (duh); some masochistically believe in the needlepoint philosophy of “Beware the danger in happiness!” even though they have an “addictive nature of incompletion and risk." Also, I am glad that in “Inspiration!” there is an appropriate mention of the early Surrealists—perhaps "Synesthetes" is majorly affected by their haunting influence?—of which JCO writes: “[Their] images were, at the outset, purely ordinary images, decontextualized and made strange.” I think this is the modern condition of every single writer living today: with every single plot and character type already having been discovered, there is only one genuine chance of creating a masterpiece by picking out (“borrowing") what works for that singular piece itself. Perhaps the best reason to listen to JCO (What?! No recommended reading?!) is that, although she is incredibly prolific and has incredible range (novels, poetry, YA fiction, story collections, plays, essays…), she, too, knows a twinge about failure. I will admit that I’ve read gems of hers, novels such as Zombie and Black Water, but blatant crap like Oprah Book Club selection We Were the Mulvaneys is so totally disappointing, especially since she was already a literary behemoth by that time, that the legend of JCO becomes completely human—and that, at least, I can empathize with. The Faith of a Writer is essential: both reassuring and realistic.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    There's something really absurd about writing a book about writing a book. Every mind is so different, and what works for one, will not work for another; so inevitably these books (Oates' The Faith of a Writer, Lamott's Bird by Bird - which I only recently learned isn't about bird-counting, who knew right?, the many, many "On Writing"-esque pretensions) are not about "how to write" but are an entirely egotistical account of "how I write." That is the obvious shortcoming of this book. But it is so There's something really absurd about writing a book about writing a book. Every mind is so different, and what works for one, will not work for another; so inevitably these books (Oates' The Faith of a Writer, Lamott's Bird by Bird - which I only recently learned isn't about bird-counting, who knew right?, the many, many "On Writing"-esque pretensions) are not about "how to write" but are an entirely egotistical account of "how I write." That is the obvious shortcoming of this book. But it is somewhat saved by the the grace of Joyce's literary slant. She analyzes not just the process of writing well, but analyzes examples of what is well-written. She attempts to bridge the gap between her personal methodology and the universal standard of writing. Despite her anecdotal histories, her idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies in her writing practice, her goals are constant, her idols are set firmly upon the tabernacle of creation. The real value of this book is not in the "how to write" bollocks, but rather in her attached and unaffected reverence for literature, her humility and her elegance, reminiscent of Woolf. She tells us: One is born not to suffer but to negotiate with suffering, to choose or invent forms to accommodate it. And for her, writing (and running) is a way to negotiate that suffering and pain, with the beauty of potential, of fiction. Fiction is not what is, but what might have been, could have been, or maybe could never have been. Fiction is a lie which deceives only to enlighten (cruel only to be kind) - a lie which mediates what is with something that is not: something inexplicable and out of control with a fictive world shackled and led only by the writer's imagination. Why do we suffer? why do others hurt us and why do we hurt? why can't we have what we want? In the real world these answers must inevitably escape being fastened down, but in fiction we can reconcile those questions with answers which follow strictly the logic of the world we create. FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR GENERAL RULES OF WRITING, IN LIST FORM: From Mark Twain: 1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. 2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it. 3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. 4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. 5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. 6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. 7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it. 8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale. 9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausably set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. 10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. 11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. An author should: 12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it. 13. Use the right word, not its second cousin. 14. Eschew surplusage. 15. Not omit necessary details. 16. Avoid slovenliness of form. 17. Use good grammar. 18. Employ a simple, straightforward style. From Elmore Leonard: 1. Never open a book with weather. 2. Avoid prologues. 3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. 4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely. 5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose." 7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. 8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. 9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things. 10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. From Kurt Vonnegut: 1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. 2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. 3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. 4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action. 5. Start as close to the end as possible. 6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of. 7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia. 8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages. From George Orwell: 1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. 2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. 3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. 4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. 5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. ***** But honestly, do whatever the hell you want! In writing the only rule is to break the rules! Curmudgeon-y dead white guys be damned.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    meh. dnf at p. 182. i think i have no soul.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Megankellie

    She says "memesis." Reading this, I felt angry, bored and jealous. Then I hated her more, then I decided I'd hate her writing. Then I wasn't reading this for like a week and I keep thinking about it. She seems humorless and boring, but part of me is angry that I can't manage to be exactly like her and dear Lord, look at the number of books she's written. You'll hear a lot of Ivy League and Summer Home and "my office" comments, which if you are mature will not make you angry. Just don't expect to She says "memesis." Reading this, I felt angry, bored and jealous. Then I hated her more, then I decided I'd hate her writing. Then I wasn't reading this for like a week and I keep thinking about it. She seems humorless and boring, but part of me is angry that I can't manage to be exactly like her and dear Lord, look at the number of books she's written. You'll hear a lot of Ivy League and Summer Home and "my office" comments, which if you are mature will not make you angry. Just don't expect to read someone who is like "my struggles are like yours and I turned out okay." This is what I was expecting. Like Stephen King's "On Writing" where he was an alcoholic in a trailer. That's the story I can get into. Everyone else loves this, but I am not capable of memesis.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hanje Richards

    One of my challenges this year is to read one essay a day. 365 essays in the course of the year. To that end, I have been exposing myself to essays by a variety of writers, some familiar to me, some not. I was actually searching for something else by Joyce Carol Oates, when I happened upon this small volume and thought I would give it a try. By the time I finished this book, sadly I was pretty convinced that in spite of the fact that I have been telling people for the past two year that I write One of my challenges this year is to read one essay a day. 365 essays in the course of the year. To that end, I have been exposing myself to essays by a variety of writers, some familiar to me, some not. I was actually searching for something else by Joyce Carol Oates, when I happened upon this small volume and thought I would give it a try. By the time I finished this book, sadly I was pretty convinced that in spite of the fact that I have been telling people for the past two year that I write memoir and personal essay, that perhaps I do not like the form at all. Perhaps what I write is not personal essay? Perhaps I don't like to read what I like to write? I am not blaming Joyce Carol Oates or this book in particular. I have been getting more and more discouraged over the first six weeks of this year, when having read something over 45 essays I have found less than a handful that I actually liked. None that I found exceptional. I hope no one feels the need to judge me or my genres as harshly as I judge others. I would be devastated. And, in fact, I feel the need to take responsibility for all of this myself, rather than placing the blame on the writers or the form. But, frankly, I just don't get a lot of the essays I read. It is like they try so hard, so self-consciously to be more than what they are, that they end up just leaving me in the dust by the side of the road. I am not giving up, in fact I have already started another collection of essays by another writer. There are essays out there that I am going to like, going to love, going to want to emulate. I just know it. I feel it in my ever-increasingly-creaky bones. Sorry JCO. I will stick to your fiction in the future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Such an elegant writer. This is one of the best books on writing that I have read, and I have read my share. I copied this for my writing workshop: Since writing is ideally a balance between the private vision and the public world, the one passionate and often inchoate, the other formally constructed, quick to categorize and assess, it's necessary to thin of this art as a craft. Without craft, art remains private, Without art, craft is merely hackwork." I mean, really, what more is there to say. Such an elegant writer. This is one of the best books on writing that I have read, and I have read my share. I copied this for my writing workshop: Since writing is ideally a balance between the private vision and the public world, the one passionate and often inchoate, the other formally constructed, quick to categorize and assess, it's necessary to thin of this art as a craft. Without craft, art remains private, Without art, craft is merely hackwork." I mean, really, what more is there to say. That being said, there's lots of other advice in here too -- including whose short stories and novels to read to learn various aspects of the craft. All you reading-writers out there, I highly recommend!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paula Cappa

    This book is about the art of writing. Oates tells us that 'writing is not a race ... the satisfaction is in the effort.' She presents what is important to the narrative craft and so much here is like a good meal. She writes a whole chapter here on failure: are artists (writers) secretly in love with failure? I especially liked her examples on how to read as a writer, and, her thoughts on the destructive self-criticism that so many writers struggle with. If you are a writer who desires to unders This book is about the art of writing. Oates tells us that 'writing is not a race ... the satisfaction is in the effort.' She presents what is important to the narrative craft and so much here is like a good meal. She writes a whole chapter here on failure: are artists (writers) secretly in love with failure? I especially liked her examples on how to read as a writer, and, her thoughts on the destructive self-criticism that so many writers struggle with. If you are a writer who desires to understand more about yourself, this is a book that will open the windows to understand why you write.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I thought this would be a quick, sweet read. But it’s more like heavy clotting blood: thick, dark and resonant. Definitely one to keep and return to.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kate Campbell

    Writers of literary fiction will find The Faith of a Writer indespensible. Joyce Carol Oates goes to the heart of issues that concern writers of serious fiction. Oates writes: "It isn't the subjects we write about but the seriousness and subtlety of our expression that determines the worth of our effort." She makes the case for a careful study of craft, tied to inspiration, to shape art in prose form. She stresses that "it's at the junction of private vision and the wish to create a communal, pu Writers of literary fiction will find The Faith of a Writer indespensible. Joyce Carol Oates goes to the heart of issues that concern writers of serious fiction. Oates writes: "It isn't the subjects we write about but the seriousness and subtlety of our expression that determines the worth of our effort." She makes the case for a careful study of craft, tied to inspiration, to shape art in prose form. She stresses that "it's at the junction of private vision and the wish to create a communal, public vision that art and craft merge." On today's crowded prose highway, Oates offers a much needed on-ramp to serious writing efforts.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    A disappointment, particularly on the heels of reading The Falls. The clash of her fast-flowing, emotionally involving narrative voice with the kind of studied, academic blah blah blah I hadn't encountered since...well, since leaving grad school.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jayce

    To a Young Writer, What Sin to Me Unknown..., and My Faith as a Writer were extremely compelling. Other than that...I love Joyce Carol Oates, but her masturbation of literary references was tiring and inelegant; it was as if she was just showing off her extensive knowledge of literature instead of using it to make her point. That said, this is a great anthology of titles to which any young writer (or reader) might return in the future. But the work as a whole felt, at times, self-indulgent. We g To a Young Writer, What Sin to Me Unknown..., and My Faith as a Writer were extremely compelling. Other than that...I love Joyce Carol Oates, but her masturbation of literary references was tiring and inelegant; it was as if she was just showing off her extensive knowledge of literature instead of using it to make her point. That said, this is a great anthology of titles to which any young writer (or reader) might return in the future. But the work as a whole felt, at times, self-indulgent. We get it, Joyce, you are well-read. (I know, I know...how dare I! Believe me I wanted to like it!)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Claxton

    I love JCO! This book blows my mind. I don't know whether to return it to the library or start it over tonight. It's one I'll definitely end up going back & copying half of word for word into my journal. Wow. I wish I could buy a copy for every young person, especially every young woman, I know who wants to be a Writer. I love JCO! This book blows my mind. I don't know whether to return it to the library or start it over tonight. It's one I'll definitely end up going back & copying half of word for word into my journal. Wow. I wish I could buy a copy for every young person, especially every young woman, I know who wants to be a Writer.

  13. 5 out of 5

    yasmine skalli

    omg. i love joyce carol oates.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zinta

    "Art," writes Joyce Carol Oates, "is the highest expression of the human spirit." And while humankind has often struggled to express why it is that art is so very necessary to our spirits (why is art the first course cut in public education when budgets require constraint?), we cannot exist without it. Art is, in great part, our communication with each other, our attempt as social animals to connect, but first and foremost, as Oates goes on to describe, it is our solitary striving to go deep - i "Art," writes Joyce Carol Oates, "is the highest expression of the human spirit." And while humankind has often struggled to express why it is that art is so very necessary to our spirits (why is art the first course cut in public education when budgets require constraint?), we cannot exist without it. Art is, in great part, our communication with each other, our attempt as social animals to connect, but first and foremost, as Oates goes on to describe, it is our solitary striving to go deep - into ourselves, connecting with our innermost and hidden hearts. In this collection of essays, Oates, known perhaps more for her amazing ability to be one of the most prolific writers of all time (something she says in one of her essays that she does not quite understand, that is, why she is seen as prolific ... to which point, I urge the author to check out her own list of published works, in and of itself a short book), examines the art and craft of writing. These are not necessarily essays written one to build upon another, but separate and independent pieces, including an interview done with Oates to discuss her fictionalized history of Marilyn Monroe, "Blonde." Included in this collection are biographical essays on how Oates grew up, her childhood and one-room school days, a time of discovery that reading books was entering a new world beyond this one. Fittingly, "Alice in Wonderland" was the first book that so mesmerized her and has kept its hold on her lifelong. Dropping down the rabbit hole into a world that was a surprise at every turn, where all things were open to re-creation, where one is never quite sure one will be able to return fully to that other reality, is not unlike the life of a writer. Also, essays on honing the craft prior to the art - and that would always begin, and never end, with reading. Reading and reading, endlessly reading, and she puts an almost equal importance on reading the classics, but no less the not quite classics, such as comic books. All can teach the writer - something about language, something about storyline, something about plot movement and suspense and conflict and resolution. It is not so much what one reads as that one reads. There are also essays on a writer's space, what it might and should contain, the art of self criticism, the squishy business of inspiration, surely important notes on failure, and others along that vein. Even a piece on running and writing, how Oates finds that much of her writing happens first in her head, long before it reaches paper (she writes her first drafts always in long-hand), and so running seems to be an activity especially conducive to unstringing such creative and transportive trains of thought. Above all, Oates states, immerse yourself. If writing is about craft first, the learning of grammar and sentence structure (and she is one of those writers who revises as she writes) and other such primary tools, then it enters that ephemeral world of Art - like dropping through the rabbit hole - when one dares to leave this world and fully enter into that one. Immersion. Nothing less. "I believe that we yearn to transcend the merely finite and ephemeral; to participate in something mysterious and communal called 'culture' - and that this yearning is as strong in our species as the yearning to reproduce the species." Perhaps because fine art, in any medium, is itself a kind of reproducing the species. And giving it new life. While this is not my favorite book of writer writing about writing - that spot is reserved for Annie Dillard's "The Writing Life," Bret Lott's "Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of a Writer's Life," and Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" - it was satisfying. I found in some ways a kindred spirit, for I, too, prefer a first draft in longhand, revise along the way, feel that writing is like entering a trance not unlike madness, and wrote my first "masterpieces," just as Oates did, even prior to knowing HOW to write. I saw my parents writing, and although I had no idea what those scribbles meant, I was well amused to sit for hours doing the same. Rows and rows of looping and connected lines, containing magic. With a writer's faith that someday, somehow, someone will read my scribbles and sense the magic, too. As did Oates, today as mesmerized by that process as she was as a child. Therein, one suspects, lies the explanation to her ability to be that prolific.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Khulud Khamis

    I always enjoy reading books about the process of writing by writers whom I admire. This little book has quite many insights, and is a quick read. I especially enjoyed the chapter on running and writing, as I myself also run and usually get inspiration when I'm running, and untangle some structural issues. The chapter on reading as a writer: the artist as craftsman was a bit tedious and not what I expected. But overall, the book is clear, and Oates is a writer who writes about her process of wri I always enjoy reading books about the process of writing by writers whom I admire. This little book has quite many insights, and is a quick read. I especially enjoyed the chapter on running and writing, as I myself also run and usually get inspiration when I'm running, and untangle some structural issues. The chapter on reading as a writer: the artist as craftsman was a bit tedious and not what I expected. But overall, the book is clear, and Oates is a writer who writes about her process of writing in a humble, honest, clear, and non-pretentious way.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    “I have to tell is the writer’s first thoughts; the second thought is How do I tell it? From our reading, we discover how various the solutions to these questions are; how stamped with an individual’s personality. For it’s at the junction of private vision and the wish to create a communal, public vision that art and craft merge.” p. 126 I have not read anything by Oates in at least a decade. I liked what I have read, but I am overwhelmed by the volume of her writing. When a new Oates book comes “I have to tell is the writer’s first thoughts; the second thought is How do I tell it? From our reading, we discover how various the solutions to these questions are; how stamped with an individual’s personality. For it’s at the junction of private vision and the wish to create a communal, public vision that art and craft merge.” p. 126 I have not read anything by Oates in at least a decade. I liked what I have read, but I am overwhelmed by the volume of her writing. When a new Oates book comes out, I usually think about reading it, but there are other authors who I have never read. This book crossed my path and I decided it was time to read Oates again. I did not know that Oates is an atheist. So, to be honest, I thought these essays were about faith in God. However, it is very clear in the first short essay that Oates’ faith is in art not God. She writes, “I believe that art is the highest expression of the human spirit.” p. 1. Once I had read that, I knew this book would not be about religious faith. Maybe because I started with the wrong assumption, I found myself slogging through this book. The writing is excellent, but Oates is writing for those who might want to write themselves. Except for book reviews and my personal journal, I have no desire to put pen to paper. So much of what she says did not interest me. I don’t know why I kept reading, but when I go to the essay titled “Reading as a Writer,” I knew that I had found something of interest. Even though I don’t want to write, I am fascinated by why people read. Reading what Oates feels is important for writers to read, gave me insights to the act of reading. That essay made this book worthwhile. Although this was not my favorite read, I do feel there are people who would want to pick this up. Those who aspire to write should read some of the essays, especially the one mentioned above.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Educational, but still a wonderful read. I thought this memoir of Joyce Carol Oates life and career was just a wonderful piece of literature. The twelve essays were given in such a way that I could easy understand. The essays explore Ms. Oates' driving force in her career as a writer. These essays are very educational for aspiring authors and even for those folks like me that just want to learn about a great writer such as Ms. Oates. There were detail discussion by the author on her daily life; he Educational, but still a wonderful read. I thought this memoir of Joyce Carol Oates life and career was just a wonderful piece of literature. The twelve essays were given in such a way that I could easy understand. The essays explore Ms. Oates' driving force in her career as a writer. These essays are very educational for aspiring authors and even for those folks like me that just want to learn about a great writer such as Ms. Oates. There were detail discussion by the author on her daily life; her creative condemnation sessions and many others. Overall, I thought the book was fantastic and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to my friends.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris - Quarter Press Editor

    This is just the book I needed right now. JCO has intrigued me since I first read a short story of hers in college. Since then, I've read a handful of her works, never quite sure of whether or not I truly like them. But her brilliance here shines. Wonderful, thought-provoking advice for anyone that aspires to be, or considers themselves, a writer. Especially if you're in somewhat of a "dark place" with your own creations, this might just be the book to return you to the light. It did so for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Antonia

    I liked it okay — some essays more than others — just not enough to spend time writing a review. I've read quite a lot of her fiction (but not recently) and want to read some of her more recent books. I do think she's pretty amazing. Have heard her speak, too, and she was a lot more personable (and funnier) than I'd have expected.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Santino Prinzi

    Mindblowingly insightful.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Keniston

    As the blurb from the New York Times Book Review says on the cover, "Who better than Joyce Carol Oates to explicate the craft of writing?" There is not doubt that Joyce Carol Oates has had the most illustrious of careers, and is an icon of American Letters. So, yes, if you are a writer, then of course you'll want to add this to your bookshelf. This slim volume (coming in at about 156 pages), is a collection of essays culled from various places over the years, and also includes an interview with t As the blurb from the New York Times Book Review says on the cover, "Who better than Joyce Carol Oates to explicate the craft of writing?" There is not doubt that Joyce Carol Oates has had the most illustrious of careers, and is an icon of American Letters. So, yes, if you are a writer, then of course you'll want to add this to your bookshelf. This slim volume (coming in at about 156 pages), is a collection of essays culled from various places over the years, and also includes an interview with the author about her novel "Blonde". The addition of this interview, while an interesting read, does feel like filler, trying to pad out a rather short book. Still, there is much to be admired in "The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art". I found that my highlighter was moderately busy, as, any reader of Ms. Oates already knows, she is great at constructing perfect sentences. And overall, these essays give the impression of someone cheering you on and encouraging you, which is important for any writer. It is interesting to learn a little bit about Oates' youth, but, if you've come here looking for autobiography, you've come to the wrong place. She does talk a bit about her first school, and shares early influences-- she loved the "Alice" books. But mostly she sticks to her writing life. In fact, in the postscript, she makes it very clear that there is a fine distinction between who she is and the "JCO" listed on the book covers. I enjoyed the section entitled "To a Young Writer", which has the most compact advice ("Write you heart out!"). "Running and Writing" is a convincing argument for any writer on the benefits of taking up running or some other sustained physical activity. There are encouraging chapters about failure, self-criticism, and inspiration as well. My favorite chapters, however, are "Reading as a Writer," the longest chapter of the book that discusses the importance of reading and influence, and "The Writer's Studio", where we get a glimpse (albeit a small one) of her studio and process (how I wish it were longer!) Again, while this is a valuable book, I can't count it among my favorite books about writing and the writer's life, as Ms. Oates really isn't interested in divulging too much of her process or life--- which is, of course, understandable, but does leave the volume feeling a little cold. My favorites remain Stephen King's "On Writing", Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird" and Neil Simon's "Rewrites". Still, Joyce Carol Oates is a treasure, and I did enjoy reading this book. I give it 3.5 stars, or a letter grade of a solid B. Thanks for taking the time to consider my thoughts on "The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art". Happy reading!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patti

    I'm always intrigued by prolific writers. Joyce Carol Oates is also prominently featured on Eric's YouTube channel, The Lonesome Reader (you should check it out- he reviews mostly literary fiction). The woman is clearly brilliant at crafting a sentence. "The artist, perhaps more than most people, inhabits failure, degrees of failure and accommodation and compromise; but the terms of his failure are generally secret. It seems reasonable to believe that failure may be truth, or at any rate a negot I'm always intrigued by prolific writers. Joyce Carol Oates is also prominently featured on Eric's YouTube channel, The Lonesome Reader (you should check it out- he reviews mostly literary fiction). The woman is clearly brilliant at crafting a sentence. "The artist, perhaps more than most people, inhabits failure, degrees of failure and accommodation and compromise; but the terms of his failure are generally secret. It seems reasonable to believe that failure may be truth, or at any rate a negotiable fact, while success is a temporary illusion of some intoxicating sort, a bubble soon to be pricked, a flower whose petals will quickly drop." Basically, do the honest work and don't get fixated on any particular fleeting success. She notes many examples of writers throughout the ages that experienced different reactions to success and failure. She uses James Joyce as an example, with his brother Stanislaus observing that Joyce seemed almost protected by the unpopularity of his work and that "inflexibility firmly rooted in failure" allowed him to actually accomplish a great deal. I struggled to understand many of her literary references, but sped through this rather quickly due to the beauty and conviction of her prose. I have We Were The Mulvaneys upstairs and hope to get to it later this year. I've heard more talk of Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing and Stephen King's On Writing, but I thought this made a great addition into my books on writers, and was a lovely glimpse into the inspiring dedication of a beloved favorite.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Curtis Runstedler

    Great book alongside Stephen King's On Writing for all those who love to read and write and aspiring writers. I love how JCO clearly loves to read and write and loves to think and is unafraid to confront our innermost fears and social taboos. She writes beautifully and concisely and offers interesting insights into why we write and different ways to think about writing and the craft. Such a beautiful mind and a great source of inspiration. With under 40 novels under her belt and many more short Great book alongside Stephen King's On Writing for all those who love to read and write and aspiring writers. I love how JCO clearly loves to read and write and loves to think and is unafraid to confront our innermost fears and social taboos. She writes beautifully and concisely and offers interesting insights into why we write and different ways to think about writing and the craft. Such a beautiful mind and a great source of inspiration. With under 40 novels under her belt and many more short stories and novellas, I hope JCO continues to write and challenge the ways we think about society, relationships, and the human condition for many years to come.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mosab Abu Toha

    In this interesting book, the writer, a prolific one, shares her experience as a writer and as a reader of other great writes. JCO discusses some literary masterpieces (poems, short stories and novels) to elucidate some writing phases and how literary works are produced by writer who are in the end “human beings” with instincts like jealousy and glorification of other. You will see names like Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, the Bronte sisters, john Updike, etc The In this interesting book, the writer, a prolific one, shares her experience as a writer and as a reader of other great writes. JCO discusses some literary masterpieces (poems, short stories and novels) to elucidate some writing phases and how literary works are produced by writer who are in the end “human beings” with instincts like jealousy and glorification of other. You will see names like Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, the Bronte sisters, john Updike, etc The book is a group of articles published separately previously. I recommend this book to everyone who wants to be a writer.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Houseman

    Though this book was not what I was expecting, I very much enjoyed reading it. Joyce Carol Oates is such a big name that I thought I’d take some writing advice from her. However, this book ended up being thoughts on writing instead of advice on writing. Regardless of that fact, I enjoyed peeking into JCO’s mind, seeing her thoughts on reading like a writer, and reading her opinions on the classics. I’m not sure how much I learned about writing in these essays, but I have absolutely no regrets abo Though this book was not what I was expecting, I very much enjoyed reading it. Joyce Carol Oates is such a big name that I thought I’d take some writing advice from her. However, this book ended up being thoughts on writing instead of advice on writing. Regardless of that fact, I enjoyed peeking into JCO’s mind, seeing her thoughts on reading like a writer, and reading her opinions on the classics. I’m not sure how much I learned about writing in these essays, but I have absolutely no regrets about the time I spent reading them, either. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a thorough contemplation on reading and writing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara Miller

    Joyce Carol Oates is a tried-and-true master of literature for some, and, for others, Oates’ novels aren’t their first choice. This book was less about the act/job/obsession of writing and more about what works and doesn’t in time-tested literature in Oates’ opinion. It was an interesting look at Oates’ early life and her thoughts on literature, but it wasn’t particularly a craft book. This book would be most enjoyed by those who love the late 19th- and early 20th-century canon of the US and Eur Joyce Carol Oates is a tried-and-true master of literature for some, and, for others, Oates’ novels aren’t their first choice. This book was less about the act/job/obsession of writing and more about what works and doesn’t in time-tested literature in Oates’ opinion. It was an interesting look at Oates’ early life and her thoughts on literature, but it wasn’t particularly a craft book. This book would be most enjoyed by those who love the late 19th- and early 20th-century canon of the US and Europe. Others may not connect with many of the works Oates references in her examples.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marcos

    It's somewhat of an informative manual on writing, but overall it's a rambling and self-indulgent essay collection that just simply talks about some of Ms Oates favorite books, and her own inspirations. I wish there was more of a "how to" or what makes writing effective section, especially for struggling readers and writers. It's an indulgent tone deaf work that strives to be something greater than it is.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Milton Brasher-Cunningham

    This is a rich collection of essays about writing, rather than a planned instruction book. Oates writes widely and profoundly about what it means to be a writer and work to express what one sees in the world. She quoted Henry James as saying the artist is one, ideally, upon whom nothing is lost. Oates does her best to live up to that definition.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kris Heyvaert

    Interesting at times, but mostly a dry rendering of the life of an author with an academic background, which includes a lot of namedropping and referencing to the mainstream (mostly English) literary canon. The book contains little on the 'life' of a writer, some phrases on 'craft', but a LOT on Art with a capital 'A(rtist)'. Too much self-importance to be earnest...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Corbin

    I underlined something on almost every other page. "What is your work schedule, one writer asks another, never What are the great themes of your books?--for the question is, of course, in code, and really implies Are you perhaps crazier than I?--and will you elaborate?"

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