Joyce Carol Oates isn’t interested in talking about her legendary productivity. “I’ve had these comments almost since I began writing,” she told Salon. “So this was a sort of dirge of complaints that have accompanied me my whole life.”
And yet it’s impossible to ignore just how often Oates publishes; some months after her last tome, “The Accursed,” hit shelves, the legendary novelist is back with “Carthage,” a pitch-dark look at grieving and the quest for justice in Western New York.
You’re so productive consequent to not reading your reviews — but is having the ability to see when people tweet at you a new experience? Is it a positive experience for you?
I have to say often I don’t read the tweets either. And then in the beginning I really didn’t want to do Twitter. I said that I didn’t want to do it and my publisher set up an account. I think they do that with a number of writers and they want you to announce when you’re going to do a book reading or visit a college and so forth so I started doing that. Then I was following a number of people. I follow about 40 people. Steve Martin was one of the first people I followed. He’s so funny. And I started, not emulating Steve, because one can’t do that, but sort of writing a different kind of tweet. It wasn’t just about what I was doing but observations on life. And then sometimes I would read and respond to other tweets. Sometimes I don’t.
But it’s just one of these phenomena, you know, it may be gone in a few years. I think everyone who does Twitter whom I know is always thinking about quitting. I could easily just quit right now and never look at it ever again, never think of it again. But taking a picture, for instance ,of a snowy West Broadway and Houston, which I did this morning. It’s sort of fun to post something like that because here’s this really busy part of New York City which is always busy — like at 2 in the morning it’s very busy — and here there was nothing there. The streets were just sort of empty at 9 a.m. except maybe for one snow plow. You know, it’s kind of amazing. That’s the sort of thing you might put on Twitter but you couldn’t do that with anywhere else. You can write an article in the New York Times, but there’s just nothing you can do with little tiny straight thoughts and fragments that go on Twitter and are sort of lost, you couldn’t do anything else with.
You have tweeted some things that have gotten you in hot water. I wonder if you are ever nervous about the public, how they react to things or overreact to things?
I don’t consider that I really said anything that I don’t feel and I think that sometimes the crowd is not necessarily correct. You know, Kierkegaard said, “The crowd is a lie.” The sort of lynch mob mentality among some people on Twitter and they rush after somebody — they rush in this direction; they rush over here; they’re kind of rushing around the landscape of the news — and this goes on a lot on Twitter. Not necessarily that I’m watching, but I know it goes on elsewhere. When I first started there was a lot in the news about gun control so I was tweeting about that and I got these amazing tweets from these complete strangers who just hated me and what do I know about guns, that I know nothing. I’m this liberal person. And really some of these things I was really astonished. But then I just stopped reading them because I still feel there should be gun control. I don’t care if a million people think I’m wrong. I just think there should be gun control. So basically you react by withdrawing. Many people on Twitter who I follow, like Bill Maher, who is very outspoken. So I imagine he just doesn’t read all the negative tweets. He must care.