Best quotes by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates


Explore the intricate tapestry of human experiences through the profound words of Joyce Carol Oates, an acclaimed American author born on June 16, 1938. With a prolific literary career spanning over six decades, Oates has delved into the complexities of contemporary life, offering readers a lens through which to view the multifaceted nature of the human psyche.

Renowned for her versatility and the sheer depth of her storytelling, Joyce Carol Oates has penned numerous novels, short stories, essays, and plays. Her works, such as "We Were the Mulvaneys" and "Blonde," have garnered critical acclaim for their exploration of themes like identity, family dynamics, and the darker aspects of the human condition.

As we present a curated collection of Joyce Carol Oates' quotes, anticipate a journey into the nuanced landscapes of her mind. Each quote is a reflection of her keen insights into human nature, society, and the profound impact of literature on our understanding of the world.

Join us in savoring the wisdom encapsulated in Oates' quotes, where each phrase is an invitation to contemplate the intricacies of life and the power of literature to illuminate the complexities that define our shared existence.

Joyce Carol Oates quotes by category:

All CategoriesAbout successAbout focusAbout motivationAbout persistenceAbout divorceAbout sportAbout televisionAbout beautyAbout happinessAbout friendshipAbout peopleAbout musicAbout natureAbout booksAbout drivingAbout speedAbout timeAbout moneyAbout angerAbout warAbout lifeAbout freedomAbout loveAbout artAbout marriageAbout solitudeAbout mindAbout improvisationAbout passionAbout vanityAbout Work EthicAbout Personal DevelopmentAbout Personal ResponsibilityAbout Personal ExpressionAbout CreativityAbout ExpressionAbout AmbitionAbout RecognitionAbout LegacyAbout FameAbout ConsistencyAbout Hard WorkAbout AchievementAbout DedicationAbout DeterminationAbout AttitudeAbout FailureAbout ProgressAbout DirectionAbout ResilienceAbout ChallengesAbout OpportunityAbout ImprovementAbout GrowthAbout HungerAbout StruggleAbout InspirationAbout PastAbout UnderstandingAbout ControlAbout FulfillmentAbout Personal GrowthAbout Self-AcceptanceAbout AuthenticityAbout IdentityAbout IndividualityAbout ValueAbout 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DiscoveryAbout EnlightenmentAbout HistoryAbout DarknessAbout GuiltAbout SymbolismAbout IdealismAbout PressureAbout PersonalityAbout ListeningAbout FoodAbout FascinationAbout IntegrityAbout AnxietyAbout LiberationAbout Letting GoAbout EgoAbout MeditationAbout MysteryAbout WinningAbout Human BehaviorAbout ForgettingAbout RealizationAbout DangerAbout FantasyAbout ShakespeareAbout Personal LifeAbout Social MediaAbout TwitterAbout Self-MotivationAbout StoriesAbout InterviewsAbout RejectionAbout Overcoming ObstaclesAbout Family DynamicsAbout Career AspirationsAbout DifferencesAbout NegativityAbout ChoiceAbout Living In The PresentAbout Perception Of RealityAbout ConflictAbout EnergyAbout EatingAbout PovertyAbout NourishmentAbout SensitivityAbout GriefAbout Role ModelsAbout BoxingAbout FictionAbout Joyce Carol OatesAbout Novel WritingAbout ProseAbout SignificanceAbout HurtAbout AwardsAbout CompassionAbout SelfAbout PunishmentAbout RedemptionAbout ShameAbout AfterlifeAbout NovelAbout 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Character DevelopmentStorytellingCharacters begin as voices, then gain presence by being viewed in others' eyes. Characters define one another in dramatic contexts. It is often very exciting, when characters meet - out of their encounters, unanticipated stories can spring.

CreativityChallengesStorytellingWriting ProcessThough I am never exactly "blocked" I do have difficult periods. I am led by a fascination with material - the challenge of presenting it in an original and engaging way. I have no problem imagining stories, characters, distinctive settings & themes - but the difficulty is choosing a voice & a language in which to present it.

PreparationIdeasCreative ProcessContemplationBefore I undertake a lengthy project, I have usually given much thought to it over a period of years. My files are filled with likely subjects - which perhaps, one day, I will develop.

Problem-SolvingWritingOne of the qualities of writing that is not much stressed is its problem-solving aspect, having to do with the presentation of material: how to structure it, what sort of sentences (direct, elliptical, simple or compound, syntactically elaborate), what tone (in art, "tone" is everything), pacing. Paragraphing is a way of dramatization, as the look of a poem on a page is dramatic; where to break lines, where to end sentences.

WritingLiteratureDiscoverySometimes I stumble upon a wonderfully irresistible to me voice, unexpectedly.

ShakespeareShakespeare would seem to have been a person for whom the human voice/personality in all its splendid idiosyncrasy was absolutely enthralling.

StorytellingPerspectiveTragedyIf Shakespeare's great plays are variants of stories, even novels, you can see how each character is telling his story from his perspective; each is vying with the others for dominance, but in the end, in tragedy, most of these voices will die, to be replaced by the yet more vigorous voice of a younger generation.

Character DevelopmentStorytellingTo choose the ideal voice for a character is to give a character an ardent and vivid life, to allow him or her to speak, rather than speaking for them, in an older style of omniscient narration.

InfluenceWritingLiteratureIt's impossible to read a distinctive stylist like Faulkner, Joyce, Kafka, Mann, Woolf, James - and many more - without wanting to write, however entirely different one's writing will be.

ImaginationIdealismI see the world in ways that might be considered somewhat harsh and Darwinistic. At the same time mediated, as in Darwin, by a real idealism and an excitement about the possibilities of the intellect and imagination to deal with this somewhat brutal world.

InspirationWritingReadingMy first love was reading, which inspired me to write.

StorytellingImaginationPerspectiveFictionI tend to think in dramatic terms. In life, there may be an actual drama, but it would be the fictionalized, imagined drama that engaged me.

EmotionsWritingLossFictionI feel a terrible loss when I (eventually must) complete a work of fiction.

WritingIrony"Politics" per se is absent from my writing but there is usually a moral (if ironic) compass.

ChangePersonalityFascinationLong ago I'd said that I am "fascinated by the phantasmagoria of human personality" - this is perhaps even truer now than years ago.

IndependenceConfusionHenry David Thoreau is very independent-minded, very iconoclastic, and had quite a corrosive sense of humor. I think that I probably have grown up to have a Thoreauvian perspective on many things. Though in other ways I live a life he would not have approved of. He believed to simplify, simplify, simplify. Make your life very clear and plain and meditative and not confused. Sometimes my life, in fact, is confused.

Joyce Carol OatesThere is something thrilling in the mimesis of life's surprising unfolding.

Of course, both [Oscar] Wilde & [Vladimir] Nabokov believe in many things, and these things emerge in their writing clearly - for Wilde, the folly of humankind and the (romantic) grandeur of the heroic, lone individual (not unlike Wilde himself); for Nabokov, the possibility of a kind of transcendence through a great, prevailing, superior sort of love (especially in Ada, the most self-congratulatory of novels.)

MotivationDeterminationResiliencePerseveranceCommitmentI've never given up. I've always kept going. I don't feel that I could afford to give up. That would be the beginning of the end.

ListeningI always tell my students the same thing. And that's to live life, and to read very voraciously without any definite program. To travel, to meet people, to talk to people, to listen very carefully, and not interrupt, but listen to their own grandparents speak of their families.

The American dream is a multi-metaphor made up of distinct regions. Many regions of this country are almost like different countries. Even in one state, northern and southern California are like two separate countries.

WriterFictionIt would be difficult for a writer of realism to avoid suggesting a political/moral perspective in his or her fiction. "Politics" per se is absent from my writing but there is usually a moral (if ironic) compass.

I feel akin to [William] Shakespeare in the sense that, as I see it, he lived to dramatize the unfailingly exciting, unfathomably strange interplay among human beings that constitutes "scenes" in his plays, and constitutes "story" in prose fiction.

Self-DiscoveryCareer ChoicesI did not consider that I would lead a literary life. I'd thought initially, as a young girl, that I would be a teacher, since I so admired many of my teachers. And though I loved writing, I did not ever think of myself as a writer.

Personal ExpressionCreativityEmpathyWritingWriting allows for fictitious voices - the voices of persons unlike myself - that might otherwise be muted.

RealityTragedyShakespeareWe come away from the tragedies of [William] Shakespeare with a profound sense of having encountered reality in its most pristine form - yet the art-work is elaborately artificial, the very genre of tragedy in poetry an anti-naturalist perspective.

Each time I undertake to reread Virginia Woolf, I am somewhat baffled by the signature breathlessness and relentlessly "poetic" tone, the shimmering impressionism, so very different from the vivid, precise, magisterial (and often very funny) prose of her contemporary James Joyce.

FocusStorytellingDiscoveryNovel WritingIt is important for me to discover the ideal title, for without this title the story or novel isn't quite in focus.

RevisionEditingWriting ProcessThough I revise constantly as I write, I will usually revise much of the work again after I've reached the ending.

ProcessLanguagePleasureObviously, there is pleasure in the execution of any sort of art, and using language, as Nabokov felt also, is an exquisite process.

BooksReadingLiteratureI am more or less reading all the time.

MotivationInspirationWritingReadingReading yields a wish to write, I think, except if the reading is dull and uninspiring.

BeliefI don't believe in predestination - except for genetic predilections.

UnderstandingReadingMysteryProseThat is the mystery: Reading Henry James can yield prose that is contrary to James, yet inspired by him. Who can understand this?

NovelsSignificanceThese novels [Zombie, My Sister, My Love] are so special to me. [I don't expect that they will have nearly the same significance to anyone else.] They represent a kind of fiction I would love to pursue more or less constantly, but dare not.

LearningDiscoveryI learned you don't discover the evidence of any cause in its result.

MemoryForgettingChoiceFor memory is a moral action, a choice. You can choose to remember. You can choose not.

SolitudeIntrospectionPrioritiesIndifferencePersonal LifeMy life is a very interior and solitary life. I tend not to care that much about external things.

FormEach genre exerts a considerable spell, as a kind of "form" to be filled, as a Shakespearean sonnet is filled.

GrowthConfusionIt is only through disruptions and confusion that we grow, jarred out of ourselves by the collision of someone else's private world with our own.

Personal GrowthSelf-AwarenessHopeIronyHurtA mouth of no distinction but well practiced, before I entered my teens, in irony. For what is irony but the repository of hurt? And what is hurt but the repository of hope?

ResilienceInspirationCourageMy parents inspired me by their example. They both grew up in the Depression, and both of them had to quit school when they were quite young to work, because there actually was no choice. So they've always impressed me with their resilience, their good spirits, their courage. I just remember them carrying on and just doing their lives. They really made a strong impression on me.

SilenceMeditationYou cultivate the subconscious by meditation, by sitting in silence and by not trying to control your thoughts. Then go someplace where you haven't been before, or go for a walk, a run, and look for signs of grace-an epiphany, something that comes to you.

ControlEmotionsImaginationObviously the imagination is fueled by emotions beyond the control of the conscious mind.

MotivationStruggleDespairWritingCreative ProcessWriting! The activity for which the only adequate bribe is the possibility of suicide, one day.

you're an insomniac, you tell yourself: there are profound truths revealed only to the insomniac by night like those phosphorescent minerals veined and glimmering in the dark but coarse and ordinary otherwise; you have to examine such minerals in the absence of light to discover their beauty, you tell yourself.

ArtWritingCommunicationReadingPleasurethe art of reading hardly differs from the art of writing, in that its most intense pleasures and pains must remains private, and cannot be communicated to others.

WritersEarly publication can be a dubious blessing: we all know writers who would give anything not to have published their first book, and go about trying to buy up all existing copies.

IntrospectionPoetryLiteratureAnalysis[Emily] Dickinson, our supreme poet of inwardness.

FamilyLossReflectionImaginationGriefAfter my parents passed away - in 2000 and 2003 - I felt I could take the time to think about the past and imagine what it would have been like to be my grandmother.

ChallengeWe are stimulated to emotional response, not by works that confirm our sense of the world, but by works that challenge it.

MemoriesFictionA typical biography relying upon individuals' notorious memories and the anecdotes they've invented contains a high degree of fiction, yet is considered 'nonfiction.'

CreativityInspirationTravelProductivityWriting Process'A Fair Maiden' existed in notes and sketches for perhaps a year. When I traveled, I would take along with me my folder of notes - 'ideas for stories.' Eventually, I began to write it and wrote it fairly swiftly - in perhaps two months of fairly intense writing and rewriting. Most of my time writing is really re-writing.

AdmirationCompetitionWorkHow lawyers make work for one another! You're all priests, worshipping the same god. No wonder you adore one another.

RevisionWriting ProcessI don't feel I write fast. I write in longhand and do so much revision. On the page, it's so old-fashioned. I could write a whole novel on scrap paper, scribbles and things. I keep looking at it and something develops. For me, using a word processor would mean staring at a screen for too many hours.

BoxingBoxing is an American sport - a 'so-called sport' to many - in which images of incalculable beauty and violence, desperation and ingenuity, are routinely entwined; the sport that evokes the most extreme reactions - loathing, revulsion, righteous indigation; a fierce and often inexplicable loyalty.

CreativityWritingStoriesStories come to us as wraiths requiring precise embodiments.

RecognitionCompetitionAwardsExcept that awards are competitive, which is a negative thing, they are wonderful for singling out deserving individuals and bringing their work to the attention of many potential readers who might otherwise have been totally unaware of them.

DeterminationPerseveranceMisconceptionsStereotypesBoxingTo be knocked out doesn't mean what it seems. A boxer does not have to get up.

IntuitionObservationBoxingThere are boxers possessed of such remarkable intuition, such uncanny prescience, one would think they were somehow recalling their fights, not fighting them as we watch.

FascinationAs soon as I moved to Princeton in 1978, I became fascinated by local history, much of it Revolutionary War-era; and I became fascinated by the presidency of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University.

Vividly imagined, beautifully written, at times almost unbearably suspenseful-the stories in Kristiana Kahakauwila's debut collection, This Is Paradise, are boldly inventive in their exploration of the tenuous nature of human relations. These are poignant stories of 'paradise'-Hawai'i-with all that 'paradise' entails of the transience of sensuous beauty.

PerspectiveLiteratureTeachingFictionI don't teach literature from my perspective as 'Joyce Carol Oates.' I try to teach fiction from the perspective of each writer. If I'm teaching a story by Hemingway, my endeavor is to present the story that Hemingway wrote in its fullest realization.

CommunicationPrivacyI don't know what marriages are like in general, but there are many things which I don't talk about with my husband. We discuss practical problems, but I wouldn't sit down with him and talk about the distant past. It's somewhat in contrast to other Americans, who feel that they have to confess things, but I'm really not like that.

PreparationPoetryCelebrationFoodWhen poets - write about food it is usually celebratory. Food as the thing-in-itself, but also the thoughtful preparation of meals, the serving of meals, meals communally shared: a sense of the sacred in the profane.

TimeArtAnd what is 'art'? - a firestorm rushing through Time, arising from no visible source and conforming to no principles of logic or causality.

ArtImprovisationFantasyArt originates in play - in improvisation, experiment, and fantasy; it remains forever, in its deepest instincts, playful and spontaneous, an exercise of the imagination analogous to the exercising of the physical body to no purpose other than ecstatic release.

Self-ExpressionWritingSocial MediaTwitterI compose most of my tweets with care, as if they were aphorisms - they are not usually dashed-off. Sometimes I'm surprised by the high, poetic quality of Twitter - it lends itself to a surreal sort of self-expression.

WritingWorkConsciousnessTeachingI am not conscious of working especially hard, or of 'working' at all. Writing and teaching have always been, for me, so richly rewarding that I don't think of them as work in the usual sense of the word.

ArtFulfillmentDisappointmentArt does the same things dreams do. We have a hunger for dreams and art fulfills that hunger. So much of real life is a disappointment. That's why we have art.

ConsistencyRewritingNovel WritingI always rewrite the very beginning of a novel. I rewrite the beginning as I write the ending, so I may spend part of morning writing the ending, the last 100 pages approximately, and then part of the morning revising the beginning. So the style of the novel has a consistency.

If my favorite, most comfortable place is by our fireplace in cold weather, expedient places are on an airplane, in a waiting room or even waiting in line; frequently these days, while on the phone having been 'put on hold.'

I haven't the faintest idea what my royalties are. I haven't the faintest idea how many copies of books sold, or how many books that I've written. I could look these things up; I have no interest in them. I don't know how much money I have. There are a lot of things I just don't care about.

RecognitionEncouragementHonorary degrees and lifetime achievement awards are very encouraging. I know that it might sound strange that a writer who has published many books still needs encouragement, but this is true.

SilenceFamily DynamicsIn families there are frequently matters of which no one speaks, nor even alludes. There are no words for these matters. As the binding skeleton beneath the flesh is never acknowledged by us and, when at last it defines itself, is after all an obscenity.