Monday 8 February 2016

Joy Williams is new to me, so I start reading too quickly, to see what kind of thing this is. The first story in The Visiting Privilege is over before I've begun. The end is nowhere, I'm looking back and can't see it. There are many ways in which stories are like life and Joy Williams has cornered her own. Her stories end as they began, just a little further on. Though having gone this far with these people, the silence at the end is not a disappointment, it feels optimistic, in the manner of a fable. You find substance and then almost immediately it has gone and you're not sure what you have lost. The next story, like the next day, is the same except perhaps it's a German Shepherd not a collie. A phrase that stops you in your tracks. Another curious situation involving a car or a dinner party. A man with a different girlfriend every weekend.

In the middle of the night I continue my sojourn with P.G.Wodehouse. More likely a pig than a collie there. No divorce. No single parents. Hardly any mothers and fathers or children unless dreadful. A different girlfriend every weekend, perhaps. Except in the land of Wodehouse there are no weekends, only intricate manoeuvres in otherwise idle days. The story rolls along its own temporal zone and the sun is shining at the end. The next night I usually remember where I was in the story and if I don't it doesn't matter.

I read Joy Williams often in the afternoon, in front of the stove. I like to be unnerved by a book, to put it down after each story, go outside even and walk around, move a rose bush and come back in, ready to be unnerved again. Her plain American sentences are without temperature, without accent, like strong currents under water. Where do such sentences leave the lives they have evoked? Where do they leave the reader's life? Like the book, opened, for a time.

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