Joyce Carol Oates publishes her first 2010 book

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It’s not yet a week into 2010, and Joyce Carol Oates has a new book on shelves. ‘A Fair Maiden,’ published today, is a novella about lower-class 16-year-old Katya, a nanny, and the affluent Mr. Kidder, a much older, white-haired children’s book author.

Oates is a unique figure in American fiction. She has won almost every major prize, including the National Book Award. She has a job -- she teaches at Princeton University, where young Jonathan Safran Foer was her student. She makes speaking appearances, and she contributes short pieces to magazines, including Narrative and the New Yorker. She’s very busy -- and she produces more work than seems humanly possible. Like Stephen King, she has published under pseudonyms to help accommodate her prodigious output.

Since the publication of her first short fiction collection in 1963, she has published more than 100 books. There have been 37 novels, nine novellas, 33 short story collections, 12 essay collections, 10 books of poetry, eight plays, 11 novels under pseudonyms and seven books for children and young adults. (That’s going off her entry in Wikipedia -- if you’ve got a more authoritative source, tell us about it in the comments.) And she shows no signs of slowing down. She should get some kind of award for writing tonnage.

It’s hard to imagine reading that many books, let alone writing them.

-- Carolyn Kellogg