Please note “reluctantly” in the first sentence of PAW’s story (Campus Notebook, March 6) on the retirement of Joyce Carol Oates. For more than 30 years, she has been cherished here as an internationally admired writer, who in turn has cherished her students. I was shocked to read of “her sometimes-frosty demeanor at the many talks and book signings she does.”
I’ve seen Joyce Carol Oates on these many occasions; she is unfailingly warm, often in good-humored (sometimes wry) conversation with the audience long after many others of her celebrity would have left the stage and left the building — an affability that continues in the more casual mixers after. She is also so in public when approached by fans. When she was a guest at Rutgers, everyone remembered her not only for this congeniality, but also for her generosity in meeting separately with undergraduates eager to converse with her.
This is also someone who is so ethically and professionally available to civic groups and reading clubs in remote, often bleak, locations around the country that she travels frequently for reading events — with audiences thrilled by her accessibility, as many a local newspaper account makes clear.
It may be that PAW has its own evidence, but to report “sometimes frosty” as a recognizable persona in Joyce Carol Oates seems perverse, even gratuitously hurtful enough to compromise “reluctantly” as her mood of departure (given this reluctance, why can’t her departure be delayed, even?). It would be understandable if PAW’s widely published remark made her less reluctant. An apology is due both to Joyce Carol Oates and to the readers of PAW.