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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 16, 2013 11:50am-12:01pm EST

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there must be critical analysis of just about everything except god. [laughter] >> well, we're going to let that be the last word. [laughter] [applause] thank you all for coming. the books are on sale in the hobby -- in the lobby, and you can get them signed. thank you again. >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at or tweet us at >> c-span bus is parked down here on the mall, and on the bus with us right now is novelist joyce carol oates. here is her most recent book, "the accursed," it's called. joyce carol oates is the author. ms. oates, we don't often have
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novelists on booktv on c-span, but this is historical fiction in a sense, isn't it? >> oh, yes. >> how so? >> well, i did a tremendous amount of research, and that was the most pleasant part of the writing into princeton and vicinity in the years 1905 or '6 when woodrow wilson was president of princeton university. >> host: what was princeton like at that time? >> guest: well, princeton at that time, it's a kind offal goer call representation of affluent white, christian america in general and princeton is sort of an exemplary community. and woodrow wilson has a cameo in your book, doesn't he? >> guest: well, woodrow wilson is a principal character, he's in much of the novel, and in a sense, it's about wood wilson. he's confronted by a demon. he's tempted and -- well, i shouldn't say what happens, but he behaves quite nobly in the novel. but he does represent many of the shortcomings of people of his time such as he was a
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racist, and he was a sexist and other -- probably his most principal problem was that he really thought he was anointed by god. >> host: to what? >> guest: to be a leader. he was anointed by god. i don't think this is that uncommon for some people to feel. politicians and statesmen and leaders. some of them are, obviously, psychopathological and some of them are less obviously so. >> host: without giving away the plot, can you tell us about the curse? >> guest: well, the accursed in the novel really means the white upper-class christian people who looked, literally looked the other way when the ku klux klan was operating in new jersey and elsewhere. when black people were being lynched and harassed and tortured and murdered, and the white leaders, like woodrow wilson and many others, just would not say anything about it. they wouldn't with come out
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courageously to criticize it, they wouldn't do anything. it was basically like they, you know, see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil. that sort of thing. so i thought there was a curse on the white, on the white race, basically. >> host: and upton sinclair is in your book. >> guest: upton sinclair was 26 years old. e represents a younger generation. he's sort of rising in the rise of interest and equality among the races and sexes. the novel's also about women's right and women acquiring the vote. >> host: and jack london and grover cleveland are also in the book. >> guest: yes. they're both socialists. >> host: where do you get your ideas? >> guest: my idea for that novel came because i came to live in princeton, and i read some biographies of woodrow wilson and read about princeton. and i perceived in the biographies a portrait of a person much, much different from the sort of received notion of
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woodrow wilson as this novel person. i saw that he had many flaws, and i saw that his self-righteousness, his rectitude, his condescension toward negroes -- he called black people negroes -- and toward women i thought really needed to be examined. >> host: joyce carol oates, do you have any idea how many books you've sold? >> guest: no, i don't have any idea. >> host: do you have any idea how many awards you've won? >> guest: no. i don't sit around counting them. no, i don't. >> host: how do you write? what's your writing process? >> guest: i try to write very early in the morning, and i basically love to write. i'm thrilled. to me, it's very exciting. it's literally exciting to write. i feel that i'm organizing thoughts that may be incoherent and chaotic and funneling them, and i like to create dramatic scenes. that novel has a lot of exposition and history, but basically each chapter is a dramatic scene, and often it's a
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conversation between people. and something really happens. and at the end of the chapter, there's an ending. and then there's something else in the beginning. and when the novel ends, it really ends. there's a resolution, and the mystery is explained in the last pages. >> host: has your writing changed in the last 40 years? >> guest: my writings' changed a lot. when i first began writing, i had long paragraphs of narrative exposition, so describing things. now i have much more people talking, much more dialogue. i may have idiomatic monologues, people talking. i try to evoke the voices of people rather than hi own voice -- my own voice. >> host: write longhand, computer? >> guest: i start off in longhand, and i like to write, and then i go to the computer and organize. computer is perfect for organizing and moving chapters and paragraphs around and positioning and repositioning. that's perfect.
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>> host: do you save your drafts? >> guest: i save many of my drafts, yes, i do. my archives are at syracuse university, and they're mammoth. it's like the grand canyon, you know? it's filled with all in this paper. >> host: now, why are your archives at syracuse when you teach at princeton? >> guest: syracuse is where i graduated. and my ba's from syracuse. >> host: how long have you been at princeton university? >> guest: since 1978. >> host: are you teaching this semester? >> guest: i'm teaching at in this very minute. i'll be teaching in a couple days, yes. >> host: and what are you teaching? >> guest: i'm teaching two writing workshops, and i have two students who i advise and do three -- theses. >> host: do you pick those students? >> guest: to some extent, i pick them. basically, they apply to the program, and i choose my thesis students. >> host: on the first day of class in a joyce carol oates class, what do you assign?
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>> guest: oh, the first day of class we may go over in great detail a short story, a classic story. we may go over a hemingway story. i mean, line by line, almost word by word, a story may be two pages long, and we go over it carefully because i want them to see how it's written, you know? the very best prose is written like poetry, it's very nicely constructed. so the other day, which is like a couple weeks ago, we did a ray carver story, and we spent about an hour on the story. so that's the first class. >> host: do you enjoy teaching? >> guest: oh, yes, very much. yes. >> host: why? >> guest: well, the students are very interesting, and their writing is often engaging and original, and i love going over hemingway, let's say, our faulkner or james joyce. i love going over really good prose when we're appreciating it. it's, as i said, it's something like poetry. really good prose is written so carefully that with a number of sensitive young people to go
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through this and see how well it's written, it's really a pleasure. >> host: is writing hard work? >> guest: writing can sometimes be hard work, or it can sometimes be fluent. you know, it's like mozart created music that sort of came into his head, and other composers revise a little more. one maybe is almost too easy. if it just comes in your head and you don't have to revise. i like to have a first draft, and then i revise it. tsa my happiest -- that's my happiest situation. >> host: and if someone with were to pick up welcome one of r books and said which one of your books should i read, what would you say? >> guest: that depends completely on who you are. i have numerous long novels, the accursed is about 800 pages long or 600. but zombie is a novella, it's only about 140 pages, so if you like short work, then i have a novel called "rape: a love story," a novella, and that's
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very short. >> host: joyce carol oates, here is her most recent book, "the accursed." this is booktv on c-span2. >> here's a look at some books that are being published this week. in "miracles and massacres: true and untold stories of the making of america," nationally-syndicated radio host glenn beck chronicles lesser known stories in american history. journalists ariel leve and robin morgan recount the movements of 1963 in "1963: the year of the revolution, how youth changed the world with music, art and fashion." in "unintimidated: a governor's story and a nation's challenge," wisconsin golf, scott walker, recounts his recall election and how he navigated a challenging political environment. clint hill, one of the secret service agents present during president kennedy's assassination and journalist lisa mccoffin recount 1963 in
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"five days in november." in "my promised land: the triumph and tragedy of israel," ari shavit presents a history of israel. erik prince, the founder and former ceo of blackwater, a private security agency, argues much of the information reported about the company was false in "civilian warriors: the inside story of blackwater and the unsung heroes of the war on terror." look for these titles in bookstores this coming week and watch for the authors in the near future on booktv and ..


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