Janet Maslin Says What’s Missing From Joyce Carol Oates’ Memoir of Widowhood

OK, there are

savage memoir reviews

, and then there are savage memoir reviews. In yesterday’s New York Times, Janet Maslin took on Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story, the novelist’s account of the death of her husband, Raymond J. Smith, which was

excerpted recently

in the New Yorker. For the reader wondering exactly where Oates’ project diverged from Joan Didion’s bleak (and wildly successful) The Year of Magical Thinking, Maslin

supplied one answer


This book’s timeline includes the facts that Mr. Smith died on Feb. 18, 2008, less than a month before his 78th birthday, and that it took Ms. Oates more than a year and a half to remove his voice from their telephone answering machine. It does not say that by the time he had been dead for 11 months, Ms. Oates was happily engaged to Dr. Charles Gross, the professor of neuroscience who became her second husband in 2009.


A book long and rambling enough to contemplate an answering-machine recording could have found time to mention a whole new spouse.