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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Middle Age: A Romance

1. Joyce Carol Oates gives readers some conundrums to puzzle out in this work. Why call the book Middle Age: A Romance? Why name the town "Salthill-on-Hudson"? Why kill off the hero on the Fourth of July? Why name him Adam? Why name his dog Apollo? Have some fun trying to figure out what the author had in mind with any of these elements or others you find on your own.

2. In an interview with Greg Johnson, her biographer, Joyce Carol Oates said, "All my longer novels are political, but not obtrusively so, I hope." Middle Age: A Romance would be considered one of her longer novels. Do you think it's "political"?

3. One interview question that gets a prickly response from Joyce Carol Oates is: "Why is your writing so violent?" She calls the question "insulting" and "always sexist." However, even in this romance, she includes a healthy dollop of violent, one might even say grisly, events. What are they? What do they add to the story? Why are they necessary?

4. Exploring who we are -- our identity -- is a recurring theme in the writing of Joyce Carol Oates. Adam Berendt reinvents himself. Why? Is reinventing ourselves a choice we can all make? Would you, given the chance, change your name? Abandon your past? Live a different life? Why or why not?

Middle Age: A Romance
by Joyce Carol Oates

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2002
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060934905
  • ISBN-13: 9780060934903