As members of the press, the preservation of our rights under the First Amendment is particularly important to us.
For this reason, we defend Joyce Carol Oates’ right to publish her recent story “Landfill.” After all, it is common practice for authors to use true events as inspiration. How many books fictionalize the Civil War? Moreover, how many recent movies have sought to recreate the events of 9/11?
But regardless of her constitutional rights, we still disagree with her decision to publish the story because of the moral and ethical boundaries she crossed.
The execution of the story was one of many problems with it. The reverse-chronological sequence of its events is a sloppy mask to cover the fact that she fictionalized the Fiocco tragedy almost exactly as it actually occurred; the superfluous details she changed (his name, his weight, his ethnicity) were a thin veil at best, despite her claims to not have followed the incident’s circus-like media coverage.
Her timing was even worse than her stylistic choices. The story was published in The New Yorker less than seven months after the tragedy.
Students are justified in their anger, particularly in that both Oates and The New Yorker are reluctant to make any sort of comment.
Oates can write whatever she wants. No one should deny her that right. But for a person who lives and works so close to the College, a neighbor to a community to which the events surrounding Fiocco’s disappearance remains a sore wound, a guest of our own Thorton Wilder Society, it is shocking that she could make such a controversial decision and then recede and decline to comment.
We encourage you to read the story online if you haven’t yet done so and come to your own conclusions.
We also urge you to take action if you are truly disturbed by the story. Write a letter to the editor and send it to The Signal, The Times of Trenton, The New Yorker and other media outlets. Our campus has a reputation of apathy, but this is the type of issue that we cannot keep quiet about if it offends us.