The BKBF Interview: Joyce Carol Oates


Critically acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates, of My Life as a Rat, tells us who introduced her to Alice in Wonderland, and reveals whose books she likes to give to children (you’ll never guess),

Where is your favorite place to read?
Curled up on a sofa, or in bed, with a kitty cuddling/purring close by.

What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child?
I’m embarrassed to say that the books I’ve given children—the children and grandchildren of friends in recent years—have been my own children’s books, most recently The New Kitten with beautiful heartwarming illustrations by Dave Mottram. (All my children’s books are about little girls, cats, and kittens, and all end happily ever after.)

Tell us your best book-receiving experience.
My grandmother giving me Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland for a birthday present when I was a little girl.

What books are currently piled in your “To Be Read” stack … and where can the stack be found in your home?
Stacks of books to be read are on my bedside table (where some have been for months) & on the large table adjacent to my desk.

What book do you return to most often, whether passages or whole?
Emily Dickinson’s Collected Poems.

What’s the best book about your hometown?
I don’t have a hometown. The nearest small city is Lockport, NY. The only person who has written about this remote region of western NY State is myself, I’m afraid.

What’s the last book that had you reading past your bedtime?
Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Very eager to see how it turned out.

Who made reading important to you?
My grandmother Blanche Morgenstern, my father’s mother.

If you had the power to create your own fantasy BKBF panel – any writer or artist, dead or alive – who would you love to see discussing books?
Oscar Wilde, Frederich Nietzche, Franz Kafka, and Emily Dickinson.

BONUS QUESTION: In honor of the 5th anniversary of Children’s Day, we’re asking everyone, what’s your favorite children’s book?
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.


Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the L.A. Times Book Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Her latest book is My Life as a Rat.


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