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Friday, March 11

Joyce Carol Oates

Writers on a New England Stage, the celebrated author series presented at The Music Hall, will welcome Joyce Carol Oates on Monday, March 28, 2011. Presented in the historic hall with Music Hall partners New Hampshire Public Radio, Yankee Magazine and RiverRun Bookstore, the evening will introduce to the community one of the most important literary figures of our time, the author of more than 50 works.  Joyce Carol Oates will discuss her new work, A WIDOW’S STORY: A MEMOIR.  The just-published book has risen up the New York Times bestseller list in the last several weeks, and will appear at #8 on Sunday, March 13.

“Once again, we’re welcoming to the series an author at the top of her game, with her first-ever appearance on the New York Times bestseller list,” said Writers on a New England Stage Executive Producer Patricia Lynch. “At the same time, just last week President Obama awarded Oates a 2010 National Humanities Medal,” she added. The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has “deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.”

About the book, A WIDOW’S STORY
Never before has Oates written a more personal or emotionally powerful book than this deeply intimate memoir. An unflinching portrait of grief and survival, this piercing book begins with the sudden death of Raymond Smith, Oates’s beloved husband of forty-eight years, and traces the writer’s abrupt passage from wife to widow.  Unmoored without the dependable rock that has anchored her life for half a century, Oates is at a loss to comprehend the enormity and finality of this staggering turn of events.

Oates has always been fiercely private about her non-writing life, but with the characteristic perception and bare narrative honesty that has marked her best work, she here delves into the inconceivable pain that became her reality.  She writes of Ray’s arrival at the emergency room one cold February morning, and his apparent swift path to recovery from pneumonia—until a hospital-acquired, virulent staph infection reverses his progress.  Within a week, the man who has sustained her as a woman and a writer is dead. Her life collapses.  The waking nightmare that follows is a composite of absurdity and anguish, denial and disorientation.  Finding imperfect solace from humane and generous friends, she begins to rebuild her life.

Wholly unlike anything Joyce Carol Oates has written before, A WIDOW’S STORY is a frank and moving memoir of widowhood, a portrait of an extraordinary marriage, and a loving examination of friendship.

About the author, Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates has left her indelible mark with more than 50 works of literature - inimitable bestselling novels, prize-winning short fiction, poetry, plays and compelling works of nonfiction. She is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, 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 the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller; and The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award.

About the 2010-2011 Writers on a New England Stage series
Writers on a New England Stage was created by executive producer Patricia Lynch, also executive director of The Music Hall, and is presented in partnership with New Hampshire Public Radio and in collaboration with Yankee Magazine and Portsmouth’s independent RiverRun Bookstore. Since 2005, the series has spotlighted a broad range of celebrated authors including Mitch Albom, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dan Brown, Isabel Allende, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, E.L. Doctorow, Anita Diamant, Madeleine Albright, the late John Updike, Wally Lamb, Jodi Picoult, Greg Mortenson, and Cokie Roberts, among many others. 

Next up in the series Writers on a New England Stage is Ann Patchett, the New York Times bestselling author of Bel Canto, with her new novel, STATE OF WONDER, on Friday, June 10, at 7:30pm. Author Ben Mezrich will take the stage on Thursday, July 21, at 7:30pm.  The author of Accidental Billionaire (the basis of the movie The Social Network) will present his new work of nonfiction, SEX ON THE MOON.  Each author’s presentation is followed by an interview with Virginia Prescott, host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth.”  Live music is performed by the award-winning house band Dreadnaught.  The live shows are rebroadcast on New Hampshire Public Radio.

Tickets to Writers on a New England Stage:  Joyce Carol Oates, on Monday, March 28 at 7:30pm, are $13 ($11 for members of The Music Hall), available through The Music Hall Box Office, located at 28 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth, over the phone at 603-436-2400 or online at http://www.themusichall.org.  Autographed copies of A WIDOW’S STORY (hardcover) will be available on the evening at The Music Hall or in the days following at RiverRun Bookstore.  Books are $25.20 when reserved in advance through the purchase of a voucher through The Music Hall box office and at RiverRun Bookstore at 20 Congress Street in downtown Portsmouth.  Signed books can be purchased on the evening for the full retail price of $27.99. The producers ask for patrons’ support of this vibrant series through the purchase of books through The Music Hall and/or River Run Bookstore.

Evening Sponsors:  The Portsmouth Brewery and Seatrade International Co., Inc.
Writers on a New England Stage Series Sponsors: Auger Building Company, Inc.; Best Western Wynwood Hotel & Suites; Calypso Communications; New England Audio Tech, LLC ; Piscataqua Landscaping Company Incorporated; RMC Research Corporation; and Haunted Milk Design.

About The Music Hall: An American Treasure for the Arts
The Music Hall is a nonprofit performing arts center that entertains 100,000 patrons, including 20,000 school children, annually with acclaimed film, music, theater, and dance performances. Its historic 900-seat theater, built in 1878, is the oldest in New Hampshire and designated an “American Treasure” by the U.S. Senate in the Save America’s Treasures Program administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service. Living out its mission to be an active and vital arts center for the enrichment of the Seacoast community, The Music Hall presents diverse and relevant programming, including its signature series and innovative community outreach programs, and hosts numerous community fundraisers and celebrations for the benefit of more than 40 local nonprofits.  A cultural anchor in a thriving Seacoast economy, The Music Hall and its patrons contribute $5.5 million annually to the local economy through show and visitor related spending. The Music Hall is a 501c3 tax exempt, fiscally responsible nonprofit organization, managed by a professional staff with the assistance of a dedicated volunteer Board of Trustees. The historic hall is located in Portsmouth, the seaport city recently named a “Distinctive Destination” for 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the “20 Best Towns in America” by Outside magazine (July 2008). For more information about The Music Hall and its schedule of events, visit http://www.themusichall.org


“In a narrative as searing as the best of her fiction, Oates describes the aftermath of her husband Ray’s unexpected death from pneumonia…It’s the painful, scorchingly angry journey of a woman struggling to live in a house “from which meaning has departed, like air leaking from a balloon.”

— Entertainment Weekly

“…a cascade-of-consciousness that will mostly mesmerize you and surely move you…a book more painfully self-revelatory than anything Oates the fiction writer or critic has ever dared to produce.”

— The New York Times Book Review

“Flourishes of black humor punctuate the drumbeat of grief, setting the book apart from works such as Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.”

  — The Wall Street Journal

“…as enthralling as it is painful…a searing account…It is characteristic of Oates’s superb balancing of the intellectual and the emotional that she enables a reader to experience Smith’s death in the dramatic way she herself did.”

  — The Washington Post

“…[a] brave, dark but slyly mordant memoir…Oates rages at the dying of the light of her life in this unflinching, generous portrait of the terror of emptiness.”

  — NPR.org

“…a rumination on widowhood, and the struggle to reclaim identity in the aftermath of profound loss…A Widow’s Story seems just right - neither overly sentimental nor detached…Whether detailing “the lengthy drumroll of death-duties” or, in her darkest moments, describing herself edging toward madness, Oates proves an utterly compelling protagonist. Her prose is gorgeous and precise.”

  — The San Francisco Chronicle

“Joyce Carol Oates writes like a force of nature, and a story emerges, as if organically, from the physicality of her grief. There are few secrets and no lies, only insights into the inner world of her partner of 50 years.”

  — The Financial Times

“Galvanizing…protean and unflinching Oates has created an illuminating portrait of a marriage, a searing confrontation with death, an extraordinarily forthright chronicle of mourning, and a profound “pilgrimage” from chaos to coherence…The incomparable, best-selling Oates fascinates readers, and her memoir of sudden widowhood will have an impact similar to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.”

— Booklist, starred review

“This book is beautifully written and very affecting. Oates is honest and forthcoming about her fears, dazed state, and outer mien vs. inner terror. Readers will become emotionally involved then feel relief when Oates is finally able to move on.”

  — Library Journal

“A wildly unhinged, deeply intimate look at the eminent author’s “derangement of Widowhood.”...Oates writes with gut-wrenching honesty and spares no one in ripping the illusions off the face of death…Oates continues to keep her readers guessing at her next thrilling effort.”

  — Kirkus Reviews

“[Oates] shines a bright light in every corner in her soul-searing memoir of widowhood.”

— Publishers Weekly

“The novelist and essayist pens her most intimate book about the death of her husband…Judging by the excerpt in The New Yorker Oates’ memoir will join Antonia Fraser and Joan Didion on the shelf of essential works on loss.”

— The Daily Beast

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