Joyce Carol Oates is many things — acclaimed novelist, National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist — and she can now add “purveyor of the internet’s worst picture of a foot” to her long and impressive résumé. Oates tweeted out the picture under a misleadingly harmless caption, explaining that she had worn the wrong shoes on a hike. “So important to wear proper hiking shoes,” the tweet reads. “Never/ever walk in the woods in sandals. The instep of my left foot this morning–poison ivy? poison oak? must’ve stepped in something …” The caption belies the eldritch horror of the accompanying foot picture, which must be seen to be believed (but you’re probably better off doing neither).
Oates later thanked everyone for their “suggestions & sympathy” and explained that she is now taking antibiotics. But the damage had been done, and the picture forever burned into the retinas of untold thousands. It’s unclear if Oates understood the dark energy she unleashed with her picture, because the original tweet is still up, despite the protests of many. But this is perhaps Oates’s M.O. — she mistakenly scolded Steven Spielberg for murdering a triceratops back in 2015, and never deleted that tweet. Oates later told Newsweek, “Many of my tweets are meant to be funny; but I guess that is not always a good idea,” revealing that she is, actually, a genius.
Update, August 17: Oates thinks you’re all a bunch of prudes if you thought it was weird of her to tweet that photo — which, ugh, you can still view here. “Judging by the surprising responses to the post of a rash on my foot,” she wrote, “one would think that most people have never seen rashes before.”