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Oates story distresses N.J. college

October 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey college has criticized author Joyce Carol Oates over her latest short story, influenced in part by a student's death.

Her story "Landfill," published in the Oct. 9 issue of the New Yorker, is partly drawn from the case of John A. Fiocco Jr., 19, who went missing in March from the College of New Jersey. His body was later found in a landfill.

Matt Golden, a college spokesman, said that Oates has the right to write whatever she wants, but the story has nevertheless caused some pain. "There are also people who were close to John and were loved ones who might have a difficult time with the story," he said.

Oates, whose many books include "Them" and "We Were the Mulvaneys," said it is a case in which a writer draws upon real events to write a fictional story but is then met with "hostility on the part of people who do not 'read' fiction as symbolic or representational, but literal. Where I had hoped to evoke sympathy for a young man trapped in a nightmare situation, with symbolic resonance (I had thought) for all of us, I had succeeded, in some quarters at least, in arousing only great anger."

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