Joyce Carol Oates — Princeton University academic, critically acclaimed writer, multiple-prize-winning author and leading light of American letters — seems a little bewildered by the dust-up over her short story, “Landfill.” I can understand her reaction. Frankly, there’s a lot going on here that I find pretty puzzling myself.
The story (published in the October 9 issue of The New Yorker but no longer online at the magazine’s Web site) uses some details from the recent case of John A. Fiocco Jr., a freshman at The College of New Jersey who went missing for a month. His body turned up a month later in a Bucks County landfill.
College officials have been condemning the short story and Oates for her lack of sensitivity to their feelings and those of people who knew the victim. Today’s Star-Ledger has an article with Oates’s response: