The Lost Landscape. A Writer’s Coming of Age – Joyce Carol Oates

the-lost-landscape“Our lives are enormous waves breaking on the shore, retreating and leaving only a few scattered things behind for us to contemplate …”

“… we are not absolutely determined by even crucial events in our lives; an initial failure may release us to a new, more appropriate, and even more challenging course of action. We have the power to define ourselves …”

If you go to a well-furnished library or bookshop it is difficult not to notice Oates’ books: she’s written so many! I haven’t read any of her works so far except for this memoir: I was attracted by it because Oates is such a prolific author and I was curious to know where she’s found all her inspiration.

As the author herself points out in the last pages, this is not an autobiography but a memoir. Oates changes most of the names of the people she’s met during her life, she deliberately leaves out events and people, and mixes fact with fiction. After all, our past is irremediably lost, a “lost landscape”, and our memory can do very little to bring it back. When we try to recollect how we were, we realize that we are not that person anymore and we hardly recognize our past selves. Yet, there are moments and, especially, people in our lives that have played such an important role in our lives that when we remember them we might be a little confused but not about what they’ve given to us. The essence of the experience, the person (and even the animal) is there.

What especially struck me is the writer’s perseverance: even when the opportunity of a PhD goes up in smoke, she is disappointed but not defeated. She keeps writing and this is the result…


So, years later the author is able to say that not even “crucial events” can decide our future and that we have the power to turn what looks like a failure into a success.

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