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In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews

In Rough Country


Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Ecco Press
Year: 2010
Length: 416 pages, trade paperback
Preview: HarperCollins


Publisher's Blurb

In twenty-nine provocative essays, Joyce Carol Oates maps the "rough country" that is both the treacherous geographical and psychological terrain of the writers she so cogently analyzes—Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, E.L. Doctorow, and Margaret Atwood, among others—and the emotional terrain of Oates's own life following the unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith, after forty-eight years of marriage.

"As literature is a traditional solace to the bereft, so writing about literature can be a solace to the bereft as it was to me during the days, weeks, and months when the effort of writing fiction often seemed beyond me, as if belonging to another lifetime," Oates writes. "Reading and taking notes, especially late at night when I can't sleep, has been the solace, for me, that saying the rosary or reading The Book of Common Prayer might be for another." The result of those meditations are the essays of In Rough Country—balanced and illuminating investigations that demonstrate an artist working at the top of her form.


Preface: In Rough Country

I. Classics
  • A Poe Memoir
  • The Woman in White: Emily Dickinson and Friends
  • Cast a Cold Eye: Jean Stafford
  • The Art of Vengeance: Roald Dahl
  • Revisiting Nabokov's Lolita
  • Shirley Jackson's Witchcraft: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  • "As You Are Grooved, So You Are Grieved": The Art and the Craft of Bernard Malamud
  • "Large and Startling Figures": The Fiction of Flannery O'Connor
  • Boxing: History, Art, Culture
II. Contemporaries
  • Remembering John Updike
  • Homer & Langley: E. L. Doctorow
  • In Rough Country I: Cormac McCarthy
  • In Rough Country II: Annie Proulx
  • Enchanted! Salman Rushdie
  • Philip Roth's Tragic Jokes
  • A Photographer's Lives: Annie Leibovitz
  • "The Great Heap of Days": James Salter's Fiction
  • Margaret Atwood's Tales
  • In the Emperor's Dream House: Claire Messud
  • After the Apocalypse: Jim Crace
  • The Story of X: Susanna Moore's In the Cut
  • "It Doesn't Feel Personal": The Poetry of Sharon Olds
  • Too Much Happiness: The Stories of Alice Munro
III. Nostalgias
  • Nostalgia 1970: City on Fire
  • The Myth of the "American Idea": 2007
  • "Why Is Humanism Not the Preeminent Belief of Humankind?" Address upon Receiving the 2007 Humanist of the Year Award
  • In the Absence of Mentors/Monsters: Notes on Writerly Influences
  • Revisiting Lockport, New York


  • Publishers Weekly, April 26, 2010, p. 99
  • Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2010, p. 405-406
  • Donna Seaman, Booklist, July 1, 2010, p. 19
  • Jeff Simon, Buffalo News, July 4, 2010, p. F9
  • Louisa Thomas, New York Times Book Review, July 18, 2010, p. 13
  • Susan Balée, Hudson Review, Winter 2011, p. 683-690