Raymond J. Smith

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Raymond Joseph Smith (1930–2008) was for more than 30 years the editor of Ontario Review, a literary magazine, and the Ontario Review Press, a literary book publisher, and for more than 45 years the husband of writer Joyce Carol Oates.

Early life[edit]

Smith was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 12, 1930. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English. He received his PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1960, where he met his future wife, fellow graduate student Joyce Carol Oates.[1]


Smith taught 18th-century English literature at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario and New York University until 1980, when he left teaching for editing and publishing. He and Oates founded The Ontario Review, a literary magazine, in 1974, on which Oates served as associate editor.[2]] The magazine’s mission, according to Smith, the editor, was to bridge the literary and artistic culture of the U.S. and Canada: “We tried to do this by publishing writers and artists from both countries, as well as essays and reviews of an intercultural nature.”[3] In 1980, Oates and Smith founded Ontario Review Books, an independent publishing house.

In 2004, Oates described the partnership as "a marriage of like minds—both my husband and I are so interested in literature and we read the same books; he'll be reading a book and then I'll read it—we trade and we talk about our reading at meal times [...] it's a very collaborative and imaginative marriage".[4]

Smith also authored Charles Churchill,[5] a critical study on the 18th-century British satirist and editor of numerous anthologies of works which appeared in Ontario Review.[6]


Smith died February 18, 2008, in Princeton, New Jersey, from "complications of pneumonia", according to the funeral home which handled his burial.[2] In April 2008, Oates wrote to an interviewer, "Since my husband's unexpected death, I really have very little energy [...] My marriage—my love for my husband—seems to have come first in my life, rather than my writing. Set beside his death, the future of my writing scarcely interests me at the moment."[7]

In the December 13, 2010 issue of New Yorker magazine Oates published "A Widow's Story" describing, in touching detail, her last days with, and the death of Smith.[8]

Celestial Timepiece (the Joyce Carol Oates Home Page) remembers Smith as "husband, scholar, editor, publisher, friend".[9]

A Widow's Memoir[edit]

Smith's widow, Joyce Carol Oates, published a memoir in February 2011 recounting their 47-year marriage and her struggle to cope with his sudden death. According to Oates, he became ill at home in mid-February 2008 and was admitted to the Princeton Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a virulent form of pneumonia. He was still in the hospital recovering from the pneumonia when, a week later, he was stricken by a secondary infection. Oates was called to his bedside in the middle of the night, but he died before she arrived.

In A Widow's Story Oates writes that Smith came from an intensely devout Catholic Irish American family and, as a young man, he entered a seminary. But Smith would later become "furious at the church". She confides that Smith left behind an unfinished novel, which he had started before they met and continued intermittently through the years.[10]

Oates was 22 when, after a three-month courtship, she married the 31-year-old Smith in 1961. The couple had no children, and neither wrote about that aspect of their marriage.[11]


  1. ^ Reese, Jennifer (July 13, 2007). "Joyce Carol Oates gets personal". Entertainment Weekly.
  2. ^ a b "Raymond Smith, 77, Founder and Editor of Literary Journal", The New York Times, 2008-02-27. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  3. ^ "Ontario Review Press". Celestial Timepiece - The Joyce Carol Oates Home Page. University of San Francisco. n.d. Web. Retrieved on 2014-4-4.
  4. ^ Edemariam, Aida (September 4, 2004). "The new Monroe doctrine". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ "Charles Churchill". https://books.google.de.  External link in |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "Raymond J. Smith". http://www.goodreads.com.  External link in |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Smalldon, Jeffrey.
  8. ^ "End of story?: Joyce Carol Oates takes stock as she approaches 70". The Columbus Dispatch. April 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  9. ^ "Raymond J. Smith". University of San Francisco - Celestial Timepiece: the Joyce Carol Oates Home Page. 
  10. ^ Sayers, Valerie (13 February 2011). "Joyce Carol Oates' 'A Widow's Story'". The Washington Post Sunday Book Review. Retrieved 13 Feb 2011. 
  11. ^ Ulin, David L. (Los Angeles Times book critic ) (13 February 2011). "Book Review: 'A Widow's Story' by Joyce Carol Oates". Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 

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