In the Absence of Mentors/Monsters

Notes on Writerly Influences

by Joyce Carol Oates

How solitary I’ve always felt, in my writing life. Unlike nearly all my writer friends, especially my poet friends, I never really had a “mentor”—never anyone to whom I might show my work in progress in anything approaching an ongoing, still less an intimate or “profound,” relationship.

Even during my marriage of many years—which ended in February 2008 with the sudden death of my husband, Raymond Smith—my writing occupied another compartment of my life, apart from my married life. I am very uneasy when people close to me read my writing—my fiction—as if I were intruding on their sense of me, which I would not wish to violate; I think that the life of the artist can be detached from the life of the “art”—no one is comfortable when others perceive, or believe they can perceive, the wellsprings of their “art” amid the unremarkable detritus of life.

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