Chaired by Jackie McGlane
*This report may contain Spoilers for the book *
Jackie started of the event by introducing Joyce Carol Oates to the audience. She described it as a “honour and a privilege to be chairing this event.”
Once introductions were done Joyce told us that rather than read from her novel then discuss it, she was going to do something she hadn’t done before. She was going to discuss the structure of the novel. The title for the book emerged from a weird and powerful dream that Joyce had in Edinburgh and she admits that she isn’t normally a writer who works with unconscious dreams. However she admits that “you can’t write without having an emotional electric charge, you want your novel to be realistic.” Structure is the most important part of a novel; Joyce told us that she has to have the structure of the novel planned out before she can begin writing.
In the 1st chapter that main character is a little girl and her mother is a religious lunatic. Joyce then read a short extract from chapter 1. “Style in literary fiction is everything and can seem like a nightmare fairytale at times. She admits that she changes the style of writing throughout the novel. She talked about the style vs content debate at the Edinburgh World Writers Conference and admits she would have stood up and said something about landscape and place. In her writing setting and place are characters to her.
The second chapter is all about things that have been neglected because you have forgotten or have not seen what has happened. We don’t see them; we don’t want to see them. She then read a short extract from chapter 2.
In Chapter 3 the style of the novel goes back to a fairytale style and is about an accident the main character has. Joyce then read a short extract from the 3rd chapter.
All the chapters in the book alternate between the little girl and the present time. The past eventually catches up with the style in the present chapters. Page 400 is when the mudwoman comes into the novel. She admits this was done as it was such a huge novel didn’t want to introduce her right at the beginning of the novel.
Talk then turned to her non-fiction work, ‘A Widow’s Story’ this was written after the sudden death of her husband. After her husband’s death Joyce suffered from Chronic Insomnia and didn’t sleep for 6 months. This book is based on the journals she wrote during this time. It is set in the present time and is not as composed as a novel. She admits that she found the diary entries exciting to write.
Talk then turned to how all writers have to find their own personal style of writing. She talk about the style of James Joyce and described it as a rich liquid, a very expensive wine. It is a special taste not everyone can appreciate. She compared this style to Hemingway whose style seems simple at first but once you have read a piece of his work you appreciate that the writing isn’t as simple as it may seem.
On this note this wonderful hour-long discussion came to a close.