As of 1999, Oates remained devoted to running, of which she has written, "Ideally, the runner who's a writer is running through the land- and cityscapes of her fiction, like a ghost in a real setting."  While running, Oates mentally envisions scenes in her novels and works out structural problems in already-written drafts; she formulated the germ of her novel You Must Remember This (1987) while running, when she "glanced up and saw the ruins of a railroad bridge", which reminded her of "a mythical upstate New York city in the right place". 
Levine’s later books include The Mercy (1999), Breath (2004), and News of the World (2009). Breath was hailed by a Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times as a “graceful new collection” that showcases Levine’s unique brand of elegy, one that operates in long, thoughtful lines that summon the un-glorious past and its hard-working inhabitants. “What gives Levine’s work its urgency,” Rafferty went on “is that impulse to commemorate, the need to restore to life people who were never, despite their deadening work, dead things themselves, and who deserve to be rescued from the longer death of being forgotten.”
Levine won several other awards, including the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry and the Wallace Stevens Award. In 2006 he was elected a a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and i n 2011 was appointed poet laureate of the United States . His poetry “will be remembered for his giving voice to the complicated lives of men and women and for making something closer to simple song than ordinary speech,” wrote the poet Carol Frost . “The territory of this poetry keeps coming back to a center—praise for the common person, an American, probably with immigrant parents, who having gotten ‘off the bus/at the bare junction of nothing/with nothing’ manages to find a way home.”
Critics have interpreted the incident as both an earthly psychological reaction to stress and a more sinister, perhaps supernatural attack. Connie attempts to use the phone and finds herself weak and dizzy. Oates writes that her breath is jerking in and out of her lungs “as if it was something Arnold Friend was stabbing her with again and again with no tenderness,” raising the specter of rape (13). The passage could be interpreted as an oblique reference to Arnold Friend sexually assaulting Connie; yet a few sentences later the man is still at the front door, outside the house. Given Arnold Friend’s apparently supernatural powers—he appears to see Connie’s family all the way across town—some critics have suggested he is using psychic abilities to attack her. Yet the scene can just as easily be interpreted as a panic attack described in vivid and violent metaphorical language.