Mike Tyson

Oates and Tyson in 1986

Oates and Tyson in 1986

Joyce Carol Oates attended a screening of James Toback’s documentary Tyson with the director and Iron Mike himself, and participated in a Q & A session, as reported in New York Magazine:

“What’s the experience of watching yourself in this movie?” [Oates] asked. “Do you feel like you yourself are an abstract piece of art?”

“I just look at it like Jim asked me questions and I answered the questions,” Tyson explained. “It looked very simplistic to me at first, but watching it with a conglomerate of people here, I feel very vulnerable. I don’t like watching it.”

JCO of course has written extensively on boxing from her book on the subject, to many articles on Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, and others. Of the young Tyson, JCO wrote in 1986:

Mike Tyson, a boy warrior, has become legendary, in a sense, before there is a legend to define him. And never has the collective will of a crowd—the very nearly palpable wish of a crowd—been more powerfully expressed than it is tonight in Las Vegas. With his much-publicized 27-0 record as a professional boxer, of which twenty-five victories are knockouts (fifteen in the first round, several within sixty seconds), with so much expectation centered upon him as the “new hope” of heavyweight boxing, Tyson recalls the young Jack Dempsey, who fought his most spectacular fights before winning the heavyweight title. Like Dempsey in the upward trajectory of his career, Tyson suggests a savagery only symbolically contained within the brightly illuminated elevated ring, with its referee, its resident physician, its scrupulously observed rules, regulations, customs, and rituals. Like Dempsey he has the power to galvanize crowds as if awakening in them the instinct not merely for raw aggression and the mysterious will to do hurt that resides, for better or worse, in the human soul, but for suggesting incontestable justice of such an instinct . . .

Shirley Jackson Award Finalist

jacksonJoyce Carol Oates’s story collection Wild Nights! is among the finalists for the 2008 Shirley Jackson Award. Other finalists in the “collection” category include A Better Angel, Chris Adrian; Dangerous Laughter, Steven Millhauser; The Diving Pool, Yoko Ogawa; The Girl on the Fridge, Etgar Keret; and Just After Sunset, Stephen King.

The Shirley Jackson Awards “have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.” Winners will be announced on July 12, 2009.

Coincidentally, as reported by Elaine Showalter in an Economist interview, JCO will be editing Shirley Jackson’s work for the Library of America.

A Woman’s Work

Deborah Solomon interviews Joyce Carol Oates for the New York Times Magazine:

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.

Topics briefly touched on include widowhood and memoirs, JCO autistic sister, housework, religion, and JCO’s fiance (first mentioned in this blog back in January).

National Arts Club Award

Joyce Carol Oates was awarded the Medal of Honor in Literature at the National Arts Club on April 7th. The event was emceed by Roger Rosenblatt, with remarks given by JCO’s editor at Ecco Press, Dan Halpern, fellow Princeton author Edmund White, and artist Gloria Vanderbilt.

In a gossipy New York Observer article, Leon Neyfakh reports on the scene.