Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
The writer Joyce Carol Oates grew up on a farm, tending chickens in what she describes as a very desolate part of upstate New York, and grew up to write around 90 (and counting) novels and collections of essays and short stories, many of them while teaching at Princeton University. She’s won many, many awards, including the National Book Award, the Pen/Malamud Award and the National Humanities Medal. Her powerful new novel, A Book of American Martyrs, begins with a terrible act of violence – and then deals with its complex aftermath.
Today's conversation starts there, weaving through the political and religious landscape of America, past and present. We also talk about whether writing, for Joyce, is as "effortless" as critics have described the experience of reading her. Trump comes, up, inevitably but briefly. Stick around for a fascinating discussion of the challenges early success can pose for young writers, including Oates' former student, Jonathan Safran Foer.
Surprise conversation starter interview clips:
Gish Jen on Identity and Choice in the West, Nicole Mason on Poverty in America