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Prolific mistress of letters

Joyce Carol Oates comes to JeffCo

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It's not uncommon to see grocery-store romance novelists publish book after book, but acclaimed literary writers are seldom prolific. Who is better known than the archetypal lonely novelist, diligently producing one or two great novels every 10 years? Sure, there's the occasional Hemingway or Faulkner, but even they couldn't rival the stunningly productive career of Joyce Carol Oates.

Oates is the author of more than 75 books, including novels, short stories, plays and essays. But beyond these impressive numbers, she has won the National Book Award (for 1970's Them), 14 O. Henry Awards, six Pushcart prizes, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and numerous other honors. She is perhaps best known for the best sellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde (which ambitiously fictionalized the life of Marilyn Monroe and was nominated for the National Book Award).

Her newest novel, The Falls, explores the 30-year aftermath of a honeymoon to Niagara Falls that ends in disaster. Her usual incisive critique of family, love, contemporary society and redemption is at work here, and book critics have responded positively to her latest effort. Not one to rest on her laurels, Oates is already hard at work on a young-adult novel, Sexy, due to be published in 2005.

Oates will kick off the Jefferson County Public Library's new literary series at a free reading and book signing. The series, InSight and InPerson, aims to bring distinguished authors to the Colorado area for free readings open to the public. Oates is more than distinguished -- she is in fact a literary legend. A woman writer who has unflinchingly examined society and interpersonal relationships for the last 40 years, her gift lies not in her plentiful offerings, but in her works' enduring relevance.

-- Bettina Swigger

capsule InSight and InPerson: A Distinguished Author Series featuring Joyce Carol Oates

Friday, Nov. 5, 6:45 p.m.

Sheraton Denver West, 360 Union Blvd., Lakewood

Free; tickets required.

Call 303/275-2222 or visit www.jefferson.lib.co.us.

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