On ​New Year’s day 1973, Joyce Carol Oates began keeping a journal, which she maintains to this day. Already a well-established literary force by the age of thirty-four, Oates had written three books that had been named finalists for the National Book Award (in 1968, 1969, and 1972), and her novel them won the award in 1970; she had also received a number of O. Henry Awards, in addition to many other honors. Despite the warm critical reception from the literary world, however, the young author was naturally reticent about her personal life and would remain so throughout her career.

The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, edited by Greg Johnson, offers a rare first glimpse into the private thoughts of this extraordinary writer. This volume focuses on excerpts from the journal written during the crucial first decade, 1973-1982, one of the most productive of Oates’s long career. Housed in her archive at Syracuse University, the journals themselves run to more than 5,000 single-spaced typewritten pages. Far more than just a daily account of a writer’s writing life, these intimate, unrevised pages candidly explore Oates’s friendship with other writers, including John Updike, Donald Barthelme, Susan Sontag, Gail Godwin, and Philip Roth, among others. Oates also describes, in vivid and captivating detail, her university teaching, her love of the natural world, her rural background, her vast reading, her critics, her travels, and, predominantly, the “silent, secret” life of the imagination.

What emerges is a fascinating portrait of the artist as a young woman, fully engaged with her world and her culture—a writer who paradoxically thought of herself as “invisible” while becoming one of the most respected, honored, discussed, and controversial figures in American letters.

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