Concert Reviews

Seattle Arts and Lectures hosts Joyce Carol Oates at Benaroya Hall

April 28, 2011

Image via Academy of Achievement

Audience members were treated to a unique evening spent with veteran writer, multi-Pulitzer nominee, and esteemed literary critic Joyce Carol Oates. At Benaroya Hall, Seattle Arts and Lectures hosted a casual, Charlie Rose-esque interview with Oates, who spoke about her latest publication centered on her recent widowhood.

Oates covers perhaps the widest breadth of subjects of any contemporary artists–her books, stories, articles, critiques, and essays have covered topics ranging from boxing legend Muhammad Ali (the 72-year-old Oates is enraptured by the art of boxing) to race relations in middle America to the life of Marilyn Monroe.

Interviewed by Dr. Jessica Burstein of University of Washington, the conversation focused largely on her grieving process over her late husband, editor Ray Smith. As Smith was hospitalized, Oates began taking notes while Smith was being treated, unaware that she would later turn these stacks of notes into a memoir voiced in the third person. “You leave much more out when you’re writing about memory… I wanted to be true to the rawness,” she said.

Oates’s soft-spoken humor (she professed wanting to print a T-shirt that read: “Yes, my husband died. Yes, I’m very sad. Yes, you’re kind to offer condolences. Now, can we change the subject?” or “I could never write a suicide note because it would never be good enough”) and beautiful diction (“Time is a rippling of cards–it’s not linear”) easily captivated an audience already awed by art.

Oates currently teaches at Princeton University and is working on her latest novel, Mud Woman.

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