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The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art    by Joyce Carol Oates order for
Faith of a Writer
by Joyce Carol Oates
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2004 (2003)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Faith of a Writer is not quite what I expected from the title - it's more a combination of autobiography and literary analysis than an induction into the writing art. Joyce Carol Oates begins, 'I believe that art is the highest expression of the human spirit.' She speaks of her early education in a one-room schoolhouse, with belated admiration for the stern teacher who injected learning into that challenging environment.

Oates mentions her childhood reading tastes and early experiments in writing, commenting on the cruelty in children's literature of her day, and on the evolution of reality. She advises the young writer to 'Write your heart out' fueled by passions (especially the forbidden) and to write for your own time. Oates speaks of the writers she admires and recommends any reader to 'Read widely and without apology' and to sometimes read 'against the grain of your taste, or what you believe is your taste.' Of her own writing, Oates speaks of how her passion for running intertwines with, and fuels, her creativity. She believes that 'any form of art is a species of exploration and transgression.' She shares her theories of the genesis of art, speaks of the role of failure as a precursor to success in context of the lives of great writers, explores inspiration, literary obsession, and self-criticism.

The book incorporates a series of essays on reading, writing, and great writers, along with Greg Johnson's 'Blonde Ambition' interview with Oates on her novel, Blonde, based on Marilyn Monroe's life. Fans of Joyce Carol Oates will enjoy The Faith of a Writer, as will students of literature, and anyone interested in the philosophy (and the mystery) of the craft.

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