Joyce Carol Oates (1938 - ) is an American author.
Joyce Carol Oates has taken the American critics by surprise with her concise and inspired volume On Boxing. “I can't imagine putting one's whole life on the line, all that you are up to that moment, and stepping into the ring and more than I can imagine stepping into oblivion,” she says. “Maybe it's partly because I'm a woman. But it is one of the reasons why I am fascinated by boxing.”
Her empathy with the boxer and the aficionados of his sport began in her early childhood, when her father took her to matches. “I come from a world that is somewhat under-privileged, and when I was young and taken to boxing matches I had no critical sense at all. But I saw dramatized in front of me a spectacle that these working-class men were reading as something very symbolic. It was telling them a story about themselves, about their lives. And they didn't get this story from the government or from the church. For many of these young men, the boxing ring is a place of sanctuary.”
But the controversy surrounding Oates's celebration of boxing has obliged her, somewhat unwillingly, to defend herself, and although there is no hint of feminist ideas within her book, and no moralizing on the sport, she arms herself, in conversation, with arguments that belie the tone of her writing.
“Almost no women have written about boxing. There's a whole macho tradition of talking about boxing as if only men can talk about it. That's not the reason why I chose to write about boxing, because I like boxing. But, even if I didn't like it, I would be drawn to it as a sort of quintessential masculine exhibit of masculiniity."
"Arts: Pugilistic primacy [PDF]
excerpted from The Times [London] 10 June 1987.