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Marya: A Life Paperback – 18 Mar 2014

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More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including 'We Were the Mulvaneys', which was an Oprah Book Club Choice, and 'Blonde', which was nominated for the National Book Award. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.

Product Description

Paperback. Pub Date :2014-03-18 Pages: 352 Language: English Publisher: HarperCollins A deeply intimate psychological portrait of a young womans tragic childhood. her reinvention as a successful young artist in the literary circles of 1950s New York City. and her struggle to understand and overcome the trauma of her past.Growing up in the confines of Innisfail. a bleak town in upstate New York. bright and curious Marya endures abandonment. betrayal. and loneliness. A college scholarship offers escape. taking her to New York City. where she makes a name for herself in academic and literary circles. But success cannot overcome the damage of her childhood. pain that haunts Marya's personal. professional. and romantic relationships. and has left her unmoored.Psychologically nuanced. rich in insight and emotional complexity. told with the unsettling power of Joyce Carol Oates's g...

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 25 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
True to form, the last sentence came through. 17 Jan 2002
By Karen A. Lawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read this book and couldn't help thinking that I was just "hearing" an account of someone's life. I felt as if I was missing something which I was. And it came out in the last sentence of this amazing and I don't know how she does it book by Joyce Carol Oates. Between "Them", "Do With Me What You Will". "You Must Remember This", and Short Stories written by this woman, I don't know how she knows, how can she get into "our" lives, "our" minds, "our" thoughts, and write so knowingly and correctly about life with such feeling and understanding, I'll never comprehend, just wish if only I had the insight and ability she has. A friend years ago said this book was written as if about my personal family and knowledge she had about our life, but this book was everyone's story, no one could not relate. Again, I thank Joyce Carol Oates for her knowing. I am sure she would understand the previous sentence.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Dark, Mysterious and Bizarre Side of Human Nature 7 May 2009
By Bonnie Brody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The atmosphere in this book is similar to that in other of Oates' novels - - it borders on Gothic Modern.

The protagonist is a brilliant, somewhat bizarre loner, a survivor of a dysfunctional family. Her life is spent in proud, purposeful separateness. This becomes so natural for her that the reader does not know if other possibilities or options exist.

There is always the threat of a hurricane of emotions behind the facade of calm. It is always understated but we know that only the surface emotions are portrayed. The protagonist shays she's never cried because she's afraid that if she does she will never stop.

I love the work of this author. This book will not disappoint if you enjoy the dark, mysterious and bizarre side of human nature. Oates gets this just right.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Good but Oates has done better 28 Jun 2002
By R. Tiedemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It was Virginia Woolf who decried the lack of literature about the lives of the masses, the everyday folk: "All these infinitely obscure lives remain to be recorded," she said. Of course, she didn't promise to read them!
In MARYA, A LIFE, Oates attempts to fill that void. Marya is a portrait of a modern woman from a bewildered childhood to a womanhood that commands admiration, respect and love. She is a loner, bright and different from the people around her. She strives for self understanding and fulfillment.
Joyce Carol Oates is a meticulous storyteller and a vivid writer. I wonder if this is autobiographical. If so, the Woolf reference becomes irrelevant. Oates is definitely ordinary folk -- she is one of the finest and most recognized writers on the contemporary American literary scene.
But if you're in the mood for a book about a woman growing up and "making it" on her own, you'll enjoy this one.
Sunnye Tiedemann (aka Ruth F. Tiedemann)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Who wants to read about a neurotic selfish woman 15 May 2014
By ron - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Joyce Carol Oates most times is a gifted writer. This novel appears to be an indulgence in intellectual narcissism which includes, of course, the usual name dropping of classical literature. JCO also has the tendency to use long drawn out sentences which end sometimes with a stupid question mark or a contradiction. Marya has no friends but is captain of the basketball team. Whatever people she hangs out with, she doesn't really like. Her lovers are old and married but they are literary geniuses and odd like herself. It was hard to get through this boring book.
Marya: A Male-Centric Life 2 Aug 2014
By AvisE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Marya's rise from humble beginnings to become a respected academic and writer is an interesting one and this had the potential to be a great book. What marred it for me was the detached style of writing and the slightly pretentious narrator who reflects the overly-cerebral and chilly character of Marya. For much of the time I felt like someone was telling me this story second hand rather than allowing me to experience it for myself.

Marya's life is not an easy one and her traumatic childhood can account for many of her flaws, but her sense of superiority gets boring after a while. Maybe this was a protective shield she had to create to forge her own path but even at the end of the book she still believed that her Uncle who raised her surely had to love her more than his own daughter because she was smarter! She does come to realise that you can't escape from the past no matter how hard you try but just when it seems she might experience some real emotional growth, the story ends abruptly.

I liked the way this book portrays the struggles of "scholarship girls" whose only outlet from a stifling life of poverty and conformity was through academia. It also shows just how insular and archaic the academic world can be. When Marya leaves this world behind (for reasons we're not privy to) to live in New York and write about human rights abuses in Latin America, there's still a distinct sense that nothing she does really makes much difference. I'm not sure if this was Oates' intention but there's something obscene to me about well-heeled journalists and academics who jet-set from one international conference to another making a very nice living off the suffering of others without doing anything to alleviate it.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of women in the book. All of the important people in Marya's life are brilliant, intellectual men. The only woman she has a significant friendship with is Imogene, who is portrayed as manipulative and fake. Her cousin Alice and the girls she goes to school with are simpletons and her Aunt is an insensitive cow. In an era when so many women were embracing feminism and challenging gender-roles, she doesn't come across a single female who is worth mentioning in detail apart from Imogene. It's only males she's inspired and influenced by so in the end this independent, intelligent and complex woman is defined largely by her relationships with men. Ironic really.

I can't help comparing this book with Stoner by John Williams which is about a young man from dirt-poor beginnings who finds an outlet in academia, but who then struggles with faculty politics and his personal relationships. I think Marya would have benefited from some of Stoner's rawness and honesty.
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