The Rise of Life on Earth by Joyce Carol Oates

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Synopsis

"Like most important writers—Joyce, Proust, Mann—she has an absolute identification with her material: the spirit of a society at a crucial point in its history."—Walter Clemens, Newsweek

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the most notable books of 1991, Joyce Carol Oates's The Rise of Life on Earth is a memorable portrait of one of the "insulted and injured" of American society. Set in the underside of working-class Detroit of the '60s and '70s, this short, lyric novel sketches Kathleen Hennessy's violent childhood—shattered by a broken home, child-beating, and murder—and follows her into her early adult years as a hospital health-care worker. Overworked, underpaid, and quietly overzealous, Kathleen falls in love with a young doctor, whose exploitation of her sets the course of the remainder of her life, in which her passivity masks a deep fury and secret resolve to take revenge.
 

About Joyce Carol Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 in Upstate, New York. She attended Syracuse University and graduated as Valedictorian. She then attended University of Wisconsin where she earned an M. A. By the time she was 47 years old, she had published at least that many separate books, including 16 full-length novels and more than a dozen collections of short stories. Some of her works were done under the pseudonym Rosamund Smith. She has also written numerous poems collected in several volumes, at least three plays, many critical essays, and articles and reviews on various subjects while fulfilling her obligations as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, where with her husband Raymond Smith she edited the Ontario Review, which the couple has continued since moving to Princeton in 1978. She has earned a reputation as indubitably one of our most prolific writers and very likely one of our best. Her fiction alone demonstrates considerable variety, ranging from direct naturalism to complex experiments in form. However, what chiefly makes her work her own is a quality of psychological realism, an uncanny ability to bring to the surface an underlying sense of foreboding or a threat of violence that seems to lurk just around the corner from the everyday domestic lives she depicts so realistically. Her first six novels, including Them (1969), which won the National Book Award, express these qualities in varying ways. she is also the recipient of an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. She resides in New Jersey.
 
Published April 1, 1991 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. 135 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Kathleen's father is imprisoned for Nola's murder, while Kathleen is placed in a dreary foster home where her half-forgotten memories of having pounded Nola's head against the edge of a mattress frame to stop her crying are buried beneath a passive, shy, obedient persona that appeals to her harri...

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Publishers Weekly

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National Book Award winner Oates's ( Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart ) tightly-focused novella features a disturbed woman who enjoys the ambience of hospitals. (Sept.)

Sep 14 1992 | Read Full Review of The Rise of Life on Earth

Publishers Weekly

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As the novel's refrain establishes, evil cannot touch her because ``one memory cancels out another.'' As an adult, Kathy outwardly seems a dedicated nurse's aide with an appetite for teen fiction (e.g., Nurse Darlene's First Year ) but shows a disturbing penchant for torrid sexual acts, which she...

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Publishers Weekly

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National Book Award winner Oates's ( Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart ) tightly-focused novella features a disturbed woman who enjoys the ambience of hospitals.

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