Oates Interviewed

The Columbus Dispatch has an e-mail interview with Joyce Carol Oates–the first I’ve seen with her since the death of her husband, Raymond Smith, in February. She has a new book of short stories, Wild Nights! Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James and Hemingway, and inevitably the discussion turns to Smith:

Q: In your journal entries, you have described yourself as “ lazy” and even “staggeringly indolent” and yet you’ve been astonishingly prolific for decades. Do these contrasting inclinations still exist?

A: Since my husband’s unexpected death, I really have very little energy. I am tired nearly all the time and have terrible insomniac nights. So perhaps the longtime theme of my “energy” is no longer relevant. … Now, living alone, I feel as if I am lacking gravity, or oxygen … the freedom of aloneness is a melancholy thing.

My husband was not at all involved in my literary life; he did not read most of my writing, only just reviews (as an editor, Ray had a first-rate eye. We were together in this house most of the time, in our separate offices, meeting for meals, afternoon walks and bicycle rides, and social engagements. Ray never interfered in my professional life — did not offer opinions, and did not read most reviews of my work or articles about me. We were each other’s best friend and confidante — though I tried not to disturb Ray with bad news of any kind, unless it was necessary.

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