April 12th, 2009

Chris Keeley


Questions for Joyce Carol Oates

A Woman’s Work

As a professor at Princeton and America’s foremost woman of letters, you’re presumably aware that the title of your new short-story collection, “Dear Husband,” could lead the reader to expect a tender remembrance of your longtime husband, who died last year.
It was just the strangest kind of ironic accident. The manuscript was all finished before Ray died. The husbandsin the stories are nothing like him.

Indeed, the woman in the title story is writing to her “dear husband” to explain how she did God’s work by drowning their young children in the tub. Why do you find violence so alluring as a literary subject?
If you’re going to spend the next year of your life writing, you would probably rather write “Moby Dick” than a little household mystery with cat detectives. I consider tragedy the highest form of art.

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