Joyce Carol Oates: By the Book – The New York Times


What book had the greatest impact on you? What book made you want to write?

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” which my grandmother gave me when I was 9 years old and very impressionable. These were surely the books that inspired me to write, and Alice is the protagonist with whom I’ve most identified over the years. Her motto is, like my own, “Curiouser and curiouser!”

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Our great American tragic-epic, Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” This truly contains multitudes of meanings: the Pequod is the ship of state, the radiantly mad Captain Ahab a dangerous “leader,” the ethnically diverse crew our American citizenry. And to balance this all-male adventure, “The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.”

What are your reading habits? Paper or electronic? Do you take notes?

Obviously I prefer “paper” books — they are aesthetic objects, usually quite distinct from one another with striking covers and page designs, while electronic books are more or less interchangeable, their 

Why We Write About Grief – The New York Times

Where we liked to walk

Meghan O’Rourke: You know, writing has always been the way I make sense of the world. It’s a kind of stay against dread, and chaos. My mother was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer in 2006; she was 53, and I was 30. As her disease progressed, I found myself writing down all the experiences we had — the day she got giddily high on morphine at the doctor’s office; the afternoon we talked, painfully, about her upcoming death. It helped me externalize what was happening. After she died, I kept writing — and reading — trying to understand or just get a handle on grief, which was different from what I thought it’d be. It wasn’t merely sadness; I was full of nostalgia for my childhood, obsessed with my dream life and had a hard time sleeping or focusing on anything but my memories. Il

When a Sibling Dies, or Has a Serious Illness

Adults who lost siblings as kids also recall feeling as if their own emotions don’t matter, what the family therapist Pauline Boss calls “ambiguous loss,” or loss without closure. Others have labeled it “hidden grief

One of the common messages for adolescents whose siblings have died is they have to camouflage their feelings,” said David Balk, a professor at Brooklyn College who has done extensive research

The mystery of our old house

Shedding tears there’s nothing much to say

Everybody dies in their own way

While we’re healthy we can bawl and shout

Serious illness makes us feel afraid

Conscious of the messes we have made

Remember birthdays and the bag of cards

When they’ve died it feels so cruel so hard.

We like to think we’ve got a chance for Grace

We cant know the time of death or place

Our house is for sale it looks so small.

The vestibule has gone there is a hall

I can’t believe the other people dwell

In a place that we lived in so well

We had no inside toilet we felt cold

Menstruation bleeding we were bold

So we look at photographs with care

But still we see no toilet anywhere

The one outside has disappeared from view

Whatever do these people have to do?

Excretion is a nuisance for us all

But go on sweetheart let your sad tears fall

For rears are clean and will not do as harm

Uric acid rarely has much charm


In the end as untamed as a child

Aged people scream Oh monsters wild

A selfish as a newborn in distress

They want another mother they confess

The one who has the loudest voice survives

In the end we all will lose our lives

Quieter patients suffer through this noise

They may be too weak to raise their voice

Waiting now to surf the final waves.

Who will be the fastest to the grave?


We lose our health we lose our lovers friends

Death comes slow but faster at the end

Now we can’t afford to use the lights

We feebly rage against the coming night.

Once our life expanded as we grew

Every year was filled with actions new.

Marriage job promotion travel fun

We never thought that one day we’d be done.

Who can fight against the dying light?

Once so strong and fierce your heart gave up

Oh my love I miss you in the night..

Filled with sorrow, we must drain the cup.

Aging is like dying everyday

Slowly slowly each life ebbs away