Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Joyce Carol Oates's rural upbringing

NPR ran a story yesterday about Joyce Carol Oates's new memoir, The Lost Landscape:  A Writer's Coming of Age.  Turns out that Oates grew up in rural western New York, and in the NPR interview she comments on how her farm upbringing has influenced her writing.  Here's an interesting excerpt from the NPR story about some other features of her rural life and the imprint they left on the large body of literature she has produced:
Domestic violence, rape, suicide — these are themes Oates returns to again and again in her work. In the working class world of upstate New York she says this was as much a part of the landscape as apple orchards. When she was a kid she didn't think much about the violence that occurred on the edges of her world. That changed as she grew up.
And here is a quote from Oates about the nature of life on a farm:
I think probably it was an unusual upbringing because we did work all the time and if I have nothing to do I am very unhappy. I think on a farm basically one is always working. I am not sure that work is always the right word because you are always so absorbed in what you are doing.
 And here is a blurb from the book's back cover:
The Lost Landscape is an arresting account of the ways in which Oates's life (and her life as a writer) was shaped by early childhood and how her later work was influenced by a hardscrabble rural upbringing.
It doesn't sound like typical nostalgic rural blather.  

1 comment:

Dakota Sinclair said...

It's always interesting to see the difference between the "surveys" and the "reality" presented by individuals who have lived in the rural areas. While the surveys that the class reviewed at the start of class talked about how idyllic rural life is, yet could mention the problems facing rural life, those who lived in the rural life would probably not see life as idyllic, as the interview with Ms. Oates shows.

It's interesting that even in the United Kingdom, which is largely urbanized, people complain about how rough rural life is. In an article by the Guardian, there is an active campaign to discourage people from moving into the countryside: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/feb/28/older-people-warned-off-rural-life. Vulnerable groups and poverty are mentioned to buttress the underlying theme, that the elderly shouldn't retire to the blissful countryside, because bliss, it isn't.