Distinguished Oxford University scholar Hermione Lee wrote a compelling and, on the whole, laudatory review of Joyce Carol Oates new novel, Mudwoman, in the April 5th issue of The New York Review of Books.
The novel tells the tale of M.R. Neukirchen, the conscientious president of an Ivy League college, whose swampy, harrowing past–being left for dead in the mud by her birth mother and subsequently raised by brutes–threatens to drown her present.
Though Lee offers a celebratory survey of Oates’ remarkable oeuvre and a generous review of Mudwoman, she argues that the story’s protagonist is the only believable character. Lee also contends that the book takes on an unconvincing or nightmarish fairytale quality that will leave the reader “exhausted” and “bludgeoned.”
We asked Oates, author of numerous best-selling books, including Blonde, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, to respond to Lee’s criticisms:
“I thought that it was a thoughtful review. Obviously, my sense of ‘the Novel’ is that it is a far more elastic genre than Ms. Lee’s concept of ‘realism.’ But all reviews are subjective, including my own, and I could not fault someone for having an opinion.”