Prolific author Joyce Carol Oates, fresh from being awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama, spoke at the Free Library last night. I got a chance to ask her about her visit with President Obama.
Although her red diaper baby second husband asked her to deliver a message of raise taxes to the rich and end the war in Afghanistan, Joyce Carol Oates, the author of more than 50 books and countless essays and book reviews, was tongue tied with the President.
When posing with Michelle Obama, who is taller than her husband, and the President, she only said, "I like tall people." When actually awarded the medal, she managed to say "thank you."
Obama told her, "I bought your book, ("A Widow's Story: A Memoir"), but I have not read it yet. Instead of being excited, she was nonplussed. Her thinking was that "everyone says that." Still incoherent, she answered Obama, "I am sure that you have been busy."
She was not shy about articulating her feelings about NY Times book reviewer Janet Maslin. Oates asserted,"She is hateful. Her review was an assault."
Although she deeply loved her first husband Raymond Smith, she remarried 13 months later. In general, she was surprised about the backlash from her book and her remarriage. About the book reviews- "It isn't Mein Kampf so it seems disproportionate," said Oates.
She is philosophical about the bad reviews. "Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Moby Dick all got bad reviews."
Oates was the first person in her family to graduate high school so her "parents had no expectations of her."
Her first husband, who was an editor, never read any of her books. Her second husband, fellow Princeton professor Charles Gross, insists on reading everything. To avoid that fate, Oates freely admits that she lies to her husband about having finished a work.
Since they are my favorite tv shows also, I am happy to report that Oates watches "The Good Wife," and "Mad Men." I would have disappointed if she liked "Keeping up with the Kardashians."