Despite the Orwellian nature of her new novel, Hazards of Time Travel, Joyce Carol Oates imbued humor into her talk, mostly self-deprecating but always hitting its intended mark. The novel was originally supposed to be called Vicissitudes of Time Travel, though admittedly I had to look up the word; apparently it means “a change of circumstances or fortune.”
For a second, I forgot that a literary titan was standing in front of me; her talk was conversational, like going to grab coffee with an old high-school teacher or friend. Despite the oversaturation of dystopian novels (mainly in the young adult genre) Oates’s take on dystopia in a post-1984 world felt fresh amid a slew of Hunger Games knockoffs and Walking Dead wannabes. Her novel is centered around Adriane, a seventeen-year-old girl arrested after giving a controversial valedictorian speech at her high-school graduation. She is sent back to be “re-educated” in Wisconsin in 1959 (hence the “time travel” aspect).
As an aspiring writer, I appreciated it when Oates started talking about how she made the conscious decision to have a “barer” style of prose. She described it as being transparent, like looking through a window, rather than ornate and admiring the image as Nabokov was so fond of doing.
I immensely enjoyed attending Joyce Carol Oates’s talk (and meeting her in person). I look forward to reading The Hazards of Time Travel in addition to the collection of her short stories, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror.
— Kat Triebes, Events Intern