Joyce Carol Oates: Soul at the White Heat—A New Book on the Writing Life…


Pre-order this new nonfiction title out on May 3rd from writer Joyce Carol Oates (Kindle, too, at Amazon). If you haven’t read Oates, she is the woman of letters of our time; and reading her should be required. She is among the world’s most prolific writers exploring intense themes on love and violence and relationships often avoided by other writers. She is also a very serious writer, one that I have trouble reading at times for the harsh realism portrayed in her work and which is intensified by dark themes.

I had the opportunity to meet Joyce in a Denver bookstore a few years back; she was signing her new book, A Widow’s Tale—her memoir about the loss of her first husband. She was quiet and graceful. She asked my name. Then, she asked what I did for a living. She signed two books “To Michael”, handed them back to me, folded her hands, looked to the next in line, and smiled. She is an ethereal woman. She is an elegant woman.


Joyce Carol Oates, ca. 1970s

There was this all-observing intelligence in her gaze that I remember…something small and seemingly unobtrusive—but that missed nothing.

This is one of her truest gifts…a gift she believes a writer must nurture. When you read Oates, you immediately sense how unique her prose is…you feel the air crackle with something. 

It is like a god swoops down, perches on a nearby chairback, watches you reading, laughter in its eyes; then, in a rush of wings it’s gone. And it is only after it has gone that you realize you will never stop hearing those wingbeats, or seeing those eyes.

When you read Joyce Carol Oates, you learn more than truth. Your intellect gets a workout. You grow.

The title of this new work is taken from an Emily Dickinsom poem of which I know Oates to be fond:

DARE you see a soul at the white heat?
Then crouch within the door.
Red is the fire’s common tint;
But when the vivid ore

Has sated flame’s conditions,
Its quivering substance plays
Without a color but the light
Of unanointed blaze.

Least village boasts its blacksmith,
Whose anvil’s even din
Stands symbol for the finer forge
That soundless tugs within,

Refining these impatient ores
With hammer and with blaze,
Until the designated light
Repudiate the forge.

I am excited to read this new book.

More on the fascinating Ms. Oates in future posts.

Go feed your intellect.

Happy reading!


Joyce Carol Oates, ca. 2000

(Image Sources:;; & The New Republic)

(Dickinson poem from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson)

3 responses to “Joyce Carol Oates: Soul at the White Heat—A New Book on the Writing Life…

  1. Pingback: Joyce Carol Oates is Amazing – Damaged Skull Writer

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