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Words of Wisdom

Joyce Carol Oates: Only Cynics Believe in Luck

A quote from author Joyce Carol Oates: “The worst cynicism: a belief in luck.” She believes hard work and tenacity are the main ingredients for success. Do you agree?

Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) is an American author who has, since her first publishing in 1963, written over 40 novels. Couple that with her many volumes of poetry and short fiction, and you’re looking at one of the most prolific authors still writing today. Oates has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize five times, but never won, which makes her sort of like the Leonardo DiCaprio of excellent American fiction. Maybe Leo is just the Joyce Carol Oates of acting. It’s debatable.

Oates’ works include them, Black Water, and Blonde. She is well-known for her exceptional productivity, writing seven to eight hours per day in longhand. Oates has taught at Princeton since 1978.

Below: Words of wisdom from Joyce Carol Oates.

“The worst cynicism: a belief in luck.”

It would appear Oates’ opinion stems from a steadfast belief that hard work is the avenue to success. To attribute good things (or bad things) to luck is to assume human effort plays only some part in getting people where they want to be. 

But how does the world really work? Aren’t there plenty of examples of people who worked themselves to the bone yet ended up with nothing to show for it? It’s much easier to cross home plate if you were born on third base. Isn’t that the result of fortune rather than endeavor?

What do you think?

“The written word, obviously, is very inward, and when we’re reading, we’re thinking. It’s a sort of spiritual, meditative activity. When we’re looking at visual objects, I think our eyes are obviously directed outward, so there’s not as much reflective time. And it’s the reflectiveness and the spiritual inwardness about reading that appeals to me.”  

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