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this entry is not likely to be very interesting to you unless you are Joyce Carol Oates

December 20th, 2006 (01:10 am)

Quit playing games with my heart, Joyce Carol Oates, and stop jerking me around. Every time I think I'm through with you, you find some way to reel me back in.

In the beginning there was Black Water, and the Black Water was good. I was eager to be a fan of yours, Joyce Carol Oates, and read more books like that. So I tried We Were the Mulvaneys, and it bored me to tears, I don't care what Oprah said. But I wasn't willing to give up hope. I tried First Love. That didn't work either. Still I persisted. I kept plowing through, picking up books at used book stores for a dollar apiece. them. The Rise of Life on Earth. Unholy Loves. Nope. Not feeling it. In desperation, I turned to Foxfire. That too was boring. How the fuck do you manage to make a book about a subtextually lesbian girl gang - a book about a subtextually lesbian girl gang that got made into a movie starring Angelina Jolie - how do you make that boring? But you did it, Joyce Carol Oates. Damned if you didn't.

So I gave up. If I was in the mood for post-Victorian Gothic I turned to Flannery O'Connor; if I was in the mood for novels with dense, self-congratulatory titles I turned to JT Leroy.* I was living without you, Joyce. I was happy without you.

Then one day I happened upon Freaky Green Eyes. And the Freaky Green Eyes was good. Damned good, really. Not flawless, still possessed of some of your more notable and characteristic bizarre linguistic tics; but damn good. And I came back, cautiously. I thought, well, maybe it's just adult fiction that Joyce Carol Oates can't do. Maybe this YA thing is going to work out for her. And so I tried Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, and that was a little heavier on the linguistic tics and a little lighter on the awesome, but it was good. So I smiled a little, and I tried Sexy, and that was still heavier on the linguistic tics and still lighter on the awesome. It was okay. My smile was hardening into a grimace. But I stayed with it.

And then you published your grand YA disaster, that After the Wreck I Picked Up My Gigantic Royalty Check and Flew Off to the Bank or whatever the hell your coked-up brain decided to call it. And I threw up my hands. I said, Joyce, that's it. We're divorced. You've hurt me enough. I'm not coming back this time.

But. You tricked me, Joyce. You published a book. You published it under a pen name. I mean, you do that. You have more pen names than any other writer I've ever heard of. But this one, you published as Lauren Kelly. And I read the summary, and it looked good. And I read the first few pages, and it looked better. There were linguistic tics that were ringing a bell somewhere deep in the back of my mind, but I ignored it. Even the curiously pretentious syntax of the title - Take Me, Take Me Away with You - wasn't enough to clue me in. You hooked me, Joyce, you bitch. You seduced me with your captivating green cover and your pretty new pen name and your intelligent-thriller chops and your innocent cover blurbs from Elmore Leonard and other mystery writer people. And I bought your book. And I'm enjoying it.

And so the dance begins all over again.

This book better work out for us, Joyce. You better bring this one home. If you do, maybe we can be friends again. If you promise to quit publishing a book every six weeks, to start reading your drafts before you send them off to the publisher - edit them, make revisions, check for typos**, and oh yeah, figure out if the damn thing is worth publishing. Publish a book a year, Joyce, and make it a good one. If you do that, I might forgive you for all the hours of wasted time I have invested in your remainder-binned out-of-print career.


It's up to you, Joyce Carol Oates. This is in your hands.

Don't let me down.

*Which do you think is a more ridiculous title, the heart is deceitful above all things or Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart?
**Note to Joyce Carol Oates' copy editor: "Anomaly" is not spelled "anomoly". kthx.


Posted by: An Unreliable Narrator (thewriteratwork)
Posted at: December 20th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)

This was hilarious. I would love to see you write a series of open letters to authors. It would make me v v v happy. I've dipped into Oates a few times, but unlike you, I haven't found a great book to make me keep going back to her.

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