Joyce Carol Oates is the rarest of commodities – an author modest about her work – though there is such a quantity of it that she has three publishers—one for fiction – one for poetry and a ‘small press’ for more experimental work – limited editions and books her other publishers simply cannot schedule. And despite the added demands of teaching she continues to devote much energy to The Ontario Review – a literary quarterly that her husband edits and for which she serves as a contributing editor.
Ms. Oates is striking-looking and slender with dark hair and large inquiring eyes. She is highly attractive but not photogenic; no photo has ever done justice to her appearance which conveys grace and high intelligence. If her manner is taken for aloofness—as it sometimes has been—it is in fact a shyness that the publication of thirty-three books – the production of three plays – and the winning of the National Book Award has not displaced.
This interview began at her Windsor home in the summer of 1976 before she and her husband moved to Princeton. When interviewed her speaking voice was as always soft and reflective. One receives the impression that she never speaks in anything but perfectly formed sentences.
Ms. Oates answered all questions openly while curled with her Persian cats upon a sofa.