What I would like to comment on here is not so much Joyce Carol Oates’s productivity, though that, of course, amazes us, but rather her excellence in so many different forms which I am not sure has been stressed sufficiently. It is hard to think of any other writer who excels as she does in these very different forms and I am just going to write about the fiction here.
Most of us are destined from the start to be sprinters or long distance runners to use a metaphor that Oates uses herself in one of her essays. We think of Alice Munro for example who excels at the short story or even a writer like Balzac who gave us mostly novels.
I can only touch on a few of the forms where Oates excels, going from the shortest of the short, the stories in “The Assignation” for example, which are sometimes just one page long yet contain all the elements of the whole: evocative imagery, suspense, closure, and even character hinted at, or so it seems to me.
Of course, her short stories are extremely well known or should be and as a teacher one can usually count on students to have read two things: the novel, "The Great Gatsby" by Scott Fitzgerald and “Where are you going and where have you been” a short story by Oates which has been so widely anthologized and even made into a film.