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Reading one of her stories that featured a monster baby and a ever growing collection of widows and divorcees, award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates evoked both chuckles and stares from an audience of students and professors yesterday. The reading consisted of the 20-page story Family, which Oates called "unconventional," saying that it doesn't follow traditional structures of "moving along to a climax, which is the gravitational center where the forces [in the story] are gathered." But while the story lacked a conventional plotline, audience members said they still found the reading entertainng, saying that it was interesting not only because of its unusual stucture, but also because of the author's use of descriptive similies and grotesque graphic detail. Audience members, who nearly filled Meyerson Hall room B-1, added that Oates was a captivating speaker in addition to her merits as an author. "She always writes the unexpected," College freshman Jennifer Kornreich said. "It's interesting that when she speaks everything is unexpected . . . she has a unique way of looking at life." English Professor Nina Auerbach introduced Oates as "the most extraordinarily varied, versatile, and generous writer that I can think of since Victorian times." Oates, currently a professor at Princeton University, has written several novels, stories and poems, totaling over 60 books. After reading her story, Oates fielded questions from the audience, which ranged from Oates's use of disturbing graphic images -- specifically in the character of a baby in the story who more closely resembled a monster than a human being -- to which authors most influenced her writing. Oates said that her unusual character portrayal was driven, in part, by her own "images and nightmares" of the destruction of the environment. "The human species is contaminating the atmosphere," she said. "It's not too different from northern New Jersey." The event was primarily sponsored by the Philomathean Society as its 1990 Annual Oration.

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