In twenty-nine provocative essays, Joyce Carol Oates maps the "rough country" that is both the treacherous geographical and psychological terrain of the writers she so cogently analyzes—Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, E. L. Doctorow, and Margaret Atwood, among others—and the emotional terrain of Oates's own life following the unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith, after forty-eight years of marriage.
"As literature is a traditional solace to the bereft, so writing about literature can be a solace, as it was to me when the effort of writing fiction seemed beyond me, as if belonging to another lifetime," Oates writes. "Reading and taking notes, especially late at night when I can't sleep, has been the solace, for me, that saying the Rosary or reading The Book of Common Prayer might be for another." The results of those meditations are the essays of In Rough Country—balanced and illuminating investigations that demonstrate an artist working at the top of her form.
“Oates writes like a woman who walks into rough country and doesn’t look back...long sentences unfold with great beauty, and [Oates’s] line of argument follows not an artificial arc but the natural course of thought.”
-New York Times Book Review