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San Miguel Big Read to Feature Joyce Carol Oates

Big Read book cover

By Diana Berman

As a part of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival 2016, the sixth annual Big Read is delighted to announce that our featured author this year is Joyce Carol Oates with her new collection of short stories, Lovely, Dark, Deep. Oates is the nationally acclaimed author of over 100 books of novels, essays, and poetry. As a New York Times best seller, she has won, among other awards, the O’Henry Award, the National Book Award for Fiction, the Stone Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the PEN Award. Oates is one leading women of letters in the US. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national best sellers Them, We Were the Mulvaneys, and Blonde.

Lovely, Dark, Deep is a collection of 13 short stories. “Insightful, disturbing and mesmerizing in their lyrical precision, the stories in the book display Joyce Carol Oates’ astonishing ability to make visceral the fear, hurt, and uncertainty that lurk at the edges of our lives,” according to NPR. “Lovely, Dark, Deep is a piercing and evocative collection … [It is] Joyce Carol Oates at her most imaginative and unsettling.”

The Big Read is a community-wide program inviting everyone to be part of a one-time book group (or your own group) during the week of February 2 to 6 to read and discuss Lovely, Dark, Deep and to attend special events

to better acquaint us with the author and her current interests before she arrives in town.

Big Read book groups

The Big Read book groups bring together people from a variety of backgrounds who love literature to discuss their own perspective on the book, often using the guidance of discussion questions prepared by the Big Read, designed for both readers and writers. Participants will have the opportunity to broaden their understanding of both the literary style of the author and the themes she is exploring.

Our focus for the one-time book groups and the discussion questions will be five of the most compelling stories in Lovely, Dark, Deep. They are “Sex with a Camel,” “The Mastiff,” “The Hunter,” “The Disappearing,” and “The Jesters.”

How to join a Big Read book group

The best opportunity to sign up for a Big Read book group, to obtain the discussion questions, and also to purchase a copy of Lovely, Dark, Deep, will be the regular Literary Sala event on January 14 at the Aldea Hotel, beginning at 4:30pm. The Sala program will begin at 5pm. Lovely, Dark, Deep is also for sale in the tienda at La Biblioteca.

If you cannot attend the book group sign-up at the Literary Sala event on January 14 and would like to join or host a discussion group, please email

Big Read special programs

The Big Read will present two programs about Joyce Carol Oates and the art of short stories as a specific modality of writing. The first program on Monday, January 25, at 5pm at the Santa Ana Theater in La Biblioteca is the showing of the 1985 movie Smooth Talking, based on Oates’ most famous short story, Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? This movie won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury prize for a US dramatic movie.

Please note the date change: The second program, on Wednesday, February 3, at 5pm, also in the Santa Ana Theater, is divided in two parts. First we’ll show a video collage of Joyce Carol Oates exploring how she has evolved personally and as an artist in the last 50 years along with the themes that she currently finds compelling. The second part of the program will be a panel discussion by three published short story writers discussing the art of short story writing, how the short story differs from a novel, how the form has evolved over the years, and what writers should be aware of as they seek to publish short stories.

Both of the above events will be 75 pesos with tickets available at the Santa Ana box office. Tickets should be purchased ahead of time, as Big Read events usually sell out.

Joyce Carol Oates will present her Writers’ Conference keynote address on Saturday, February 13, at 6pm at the Hotel Real de Minas. Tickets for individual conference events like this keynote or full conference packages may be purchased online at


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