Upcoming Event

Joyce Carol Oates at The Cambridge Public Library


Butcher: A Novel

in conversation with DAPHNE KALOTAY

Please Note: Tickets to this event are sold out. We will have a stand-by line at the library. If any seats are still open five minutes before the event begins, we will turn them over to those in the stand-by line on a first-come, first-served basis.


July 18, 2024
6:00 PM ET


Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138


SOLD OUT. View our Sold Out Event FAQ.

Harvard Book Store and the Cambridge Public Library welcome JOYCE CAROL OATES—award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and The Falls—for a discussion of her new novel Butcher. She will be joined in conversation by DAPHNE KALOTAY—award-winning author of Russian Winter, The Archivists, and Calamity and Other Stories.


Please Note: Tickets to this event are sold out. We will have a stand-by line at the library. If any seats are still open five minutes before the event begins, we will turn them over to those in the stand-by line on a first-come, first-served basis.

RSVP for free to this event or choose the "Book-Included" ticket to reserve a copy of Butcher and pick it up at the event. Joyce will sign copies of her new book after the presentation.

About Butcher

In this harrowing story based on authentic historical documents, we follow the career of Dr. Silas Weir, “Father of Gyno-Psychiatry,” as he ascends from professional anonymity to national renown. Humiliated by a procedure gone terribly wrong, Weir is forced to take a position at the New Jersey Asylum for Female Lunatics, where he reigns. There, he is allowed to continue his practice, unchecked for decades, making a name for himself by focusing on women who have been neglected by the state—women he subjects to the most grotesque modes of experimentation. As he begins to establish himself as a pioneer of nineteenth-century surgery, Weir’s ambition is fueled by his obsessive fascination with a young Irish indentured servant named Brigit, who becomes not only Weir’s primary experimental subject, but also the agent of his destruction.

Narrated by Silas Weir’s eldest son, who has repudiated his father’s brutal legacy, Butcher is a unique blend of fiction and fact, a nightmare voyage through the darkest regions of the American psyche conjoined, in its startling conclusion, with unexpected romance. Once again, Joyce Carol Oates has written a spellbinding novel confirming her position as one of our celebrated American visionaries of the imagination.

Praise for Butcher

Butcher has the feverish energy, narrative propulsion and descriptive amplitude of much of [Oates’s] earlier work....Oates, as is her wont, succeeds in creating a world that is apart from our own yet familiar, making it impossible to dismiss her observations about twisted natures and random acts of violence....We have become so used to the notion of the recognizable auteur blazing through the artifice of fiction and calling attention to his or her self that Oates’s approach feels like a singularly uncommon one. Long may she run.” —Daphne Merkin, The New York Times Book Review

“Oates’ daring tale of grotesque medical experiments and other injustices is unnerving, illuminating, suspenseful, mythic, and, thankfully, tempered by transcendence and love.” —Booklist, starred

“A creepy, circuitous tale—one based on actual history . . . Vintage Oates: splendidly written, and a useful warning to choose your doctors wisely.” —Kirkus

“Deliciously arch . . . Oates’s scathing indictment of the physical and psychological treatment of women by the medical establishment makes for compulsive but challenging reading. Unlike the ghastly procedures depicted, Oates’s inventive gothic novel pays off.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Oates] takes this very real nightmare of [the ‘father of gyno-psychiatry’] and knits together a story about a young Irish servant who becomes Weir’s ‘subject,’ but also the object of his downfall. Sounds like the perfect American novel, delving deep into the horrors of invention.” —Lit Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2024”

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Daphne Kalotay
Daphne Kalotay

Daphne Kalotay

Published in 20+ languages, Daphne Kalotay’s books include the award-winning novels Russian Winter, Sight Reading, and Blue Hours, and two story collections: Calamity and Other Stories, shortlisted for The Story Prize, and The Archivists, winner of the Grace Paley Prize. A recipient of fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, MacDowell, and Yaddo, among others, she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Sasha Pedro

Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award, the National Book Award, the Jerusalem Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the Prix Femina, and the Cino Del Duca World Prize. She has been nominated several times for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national best sellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and the New York Times best seller The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Distinguished Professor of the Humanities Emerita at Princeton University and has been a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Photo Credit: Dustin Cohen

Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138

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