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Posts Tagged ‘Joy Williams’

3 Stories of God: 79, 80, and 93

June 7, 2013 | by

Cave-of-Despair

Benjamin West, The Cave of Despair, 1772.

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

79

There was a famous writer who had a house on the coast. He was entertaining another writer for the weekend, this one less well known, but nonetheless with a name that was recognized by many. A third writer, whose husband had died unexpectedly only two days before, had also been invited for the evening. This was done at the last minute, an act of graciousness, as the woman was on her way south, on a trip she and her husband had long intended.

This writer was the least famous of the three. People couldn’t get a handle on her stuff.

The famous writer and his wife made fish baked in salt for supper. There were many bottles of wine. The third writer’s husband was remembered off and on, fondly.

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1 Story of God: 71

June 6, 2013 | by

Irony-Paris-Review

Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

71

A child was walking with a lion through a great fog.

“I’ve experienced death many times,” the lion said.

“Impossible,” the child said.

“It’s true, my experience of death does not include my own.”

“I’m glad.”

“I’ve had near-death experiences, however.”

“Quite a different matter,” the child said.

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2 Stories of God: 13 and 50

June 4, 2013 | by

New-Mexico-Road

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

 

13

It was May and in the garden they were drinking mango margaritas. Martha and Constance were discussing throwing an Anti–Mother’s Day party.

Martha says that in the movie A.I., there are seven words Monica uses to imprint the boy David. They are: Cirrus. Socrates. Particle. Decibel. Hurricane. Dolphin. Tulip. She is now his mother, and he will love her unconditionally and forever.

But he was a cyborg, she adds.

Constance becomes anxious when conversation deteriorates to talk of movies. She brings out her mother’s replacement knees, which she requested upon her mother’s cremation, though her husband, Jim, maintains that he was the one who requested them.

Laughing, Martha says that this is the most macabre thing she has ever witnessed in her life.

The heavy knees are passed around.

Later, Martha tells the story of the tenant in her Palm Beach condominium (willed to Martha by her mother) who committed suicide there by shotgun. It cost two thousand dollars to get the blood out of the carpets.

The other tenants of the condominium are annoyed at Martha because she didn’t come up right away from Key West to deal with the situation. Read More »

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3 Stories of God: 5, 6, and 7

June 3, 2013 | by

Le-Songe-Paris-Review

Louis-Léopold Boilly, Tartini’s Dream.

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

 

5

At some point, Kafka became a vegetarian.

Afterwards, visiting an aquarium in Berlin, he spoke to the fish through the glass.

“Now at last I can look at you in peace, I don’t eat you anymore.” Read More »

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Helpless: On the Poetry of Neil Young

October 23, 2012 | by

There was a fascinating if incomplete musing on the New Yorker website this week regarding Neil Young’s insularity and on the incomprehensible idea that he never reads. It seemed strange that someone who doesn't read would decide to write a book, though it’s often true that writing and reading aren’t necessarily two sides of the same coin. They are often very different coins, operating in very different currencies. When you go to a bank to make change, the exchange rate is never in your favor.

I forwarded the piece to my friend Bill Flicker, out in Los Angeles, who wrote back that he never listens to Neil Young’s words, that they are simply placeholders or crumbs that are scattered on a walk through a musical forest. Actually, I do listen to his words. Not always. But when I listen, they’re remarkably visual and evocative:

Blue blue windows behind the stars.
Yellow moon on the rise.
Purple words on a grey background
To be a woman and to be turned down

How did those windows get behind the stars? I don’t know, but I can see them clearly. Sometimes as a child's drawing. Sometimes as a reflection on an airplane window. There may not be logic involved, but there is something deeper than that. Read More »

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Literary Paint Chips: Gallery 1

April 26, 2012 | by

Paint Samples, suitable for the home, sourced from colors in literature. As seen in our two-hundredth issue.

City Fingers1 Delta Khaki2 Navy Rayon3 Limpopo4
Mapp’s Silence5 Nightclub Lycra6 Alleline’s Pink Gin7 Lydia8
Montdore Mink9 Rothko’s Forearm10 Moth11 Mrs. Jones Green12
Elephant Hills13 Camel Cashmere14 Glimpse Gray15 Samsa Juice16
Anne’s Shoes17 Mossy Trout18 Lipstick Smack19 Ocean Heart20
Mediterranean Cock21 Rebecca’s Smalls22 Dock Green23 Fair Fuzz24
Gosling25 Random Dandelion26 Violet Hour27 Golightly28

Annotations

  1. “The clouds have their old color back, their old English color: the color of a soft-boiled egg, shelled by city fingers.” ‘London Fields,’ Martin Amis.
  2. “They hurried out of the room and returned in a minute or two, each pushing a kind of tall dumb-waiter laden, on all its four wire-netted shelves, with eight-month-old babies, all exactly alike (a Bokanovsky Group, it was evident) and all (since their caste was Delta) dressed in khaki.” ‘Brave New World,’ Aldous Huxley.
  3. “Instead, she’d burst into tears. Wetting the front of her navy-blue rayon housewife dress.” ‘Blonde,’ Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. “Then Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, ‘Go to the banks of the great gray-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.’ ” “The Elephant’s Child,” Rudyard Kipling.
  5. “Miss Mapp inclined her head. Silence was gold.” ‘Miss Mapp,’ E.F. Benson.
  6. “So Becca shows up at the last minute, right before post time. She’s already called about eighteen times just to let us know that she’s coming, finally she dances through the door in this micro lycra red dress— just a sheath really, perfect for that 3:00 a.m. nightclub appearance, but like even I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around in this thing in the middle of the day. But the boys love it and it gets so quiet for a minute you can hear the sound of tongues dropping and saliva splashing on the floor.” ‘Story of My Life,’ Jay McInerney.
  7. “Percy showed it to him last night—over a pink gin, was it, Percy, at the Travellers’?” ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,’ John le Carré.
  8. “Lydia never looked clean; her skin was not pitted like Joe’s but it had a permanent grayness, the grayness of one reared on baked beans, jelly and bread and dripping.” ‘The Millstone,’ Margaret Drabble.
  9. “‘The important thing, dear,’ she said, ‘is to have a really good fur coat, I mean a proper, dark one.’ To Lady Montdore, fur meant mink.” ‘Love in a Cold Climate,’ Nancy Mitford.
  10. “He’s very close to being the shade of the walls, isn’t he, and the shade of the walls is exactly the color of the inside of Rothko’s forearm.” ‘Breaking and Entering,’ Joy Williams.
  11. “He will not open the screen and capture their pollened bodies. He did this once and the terrified thrash of the moth—a brown-pink creature who released col- ored dust on his fingers—scared them both.” ‘In the Skin of a Lion,’ Michael Ondaatje.
  12. “ ‘Now, darling,’ she said sailing past me into the kitchen. ‘I’ve brought you some nice soup, and some smart outfits of mine for Monday!’ She was wearing a lime green suit, black tights and high-heeled court shoes.” ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary,’ Helen Fielding.
  13. “‘Well, let’s try and have a fine time.’ ‘All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?’ ” “Hills Like White Elephants,” Ernest Hemingway.
  14. “Cousin Bette, a victim, ever since her arrival in Paris, to a longing for cashmere shawls, was fascinated by the thought of possessing this particular yellow camel’s-hair, given by the baron to his wife in 1808, and according to the custom of certain families passed over to the daughter in 1830.” ‘Cousin Bette,’ Honoré de Balzac.
  15. “I saw large gray eyes in a bright, lively face, and suddenly this face began to quiver and laugh.” ‘First Love,’ Ivan Turgenev.
  16. “He seemed, unfortunately, to have no proper teeth—how was he, then, to grasp the key?—but the lack of teeth was, of course, made up for with a very strong jaw; using the jaw, he really was able to start the key turning, ignoring the fact that he must have been causing some kind of damage as a brown fluid came from his mouth, flowed over the key and dripped onto the floor.” ‘The Metamorphosis,’ Franz Kafka.
  17. “Everywhere I go, upstairs or down, they all cast admiring glances at my feet, which are adorned by a pair of exceptionally beautiful ( for times like these!) shoes. Miep managed to snap them up for 27.50 guilders. Burgundy-colored suede and leather with medium-sized high heels. I feel as if I’m on stilts, and look even taller than I already am.” ‘Diary of a Young Girl,’ Anne Frank.
  18. “He was the color of moss, that color green. It was as if he had been wrapped up in moss a long time, and the color had come off all over him.” “Nobody Said Anything,” Raymond Carver.
  19. “When I awoke, B. and the girl had gone, leaving in the wake of their coupling a great mountain of disheveled bedding, a brilliant stain of orange lipstick smack in the middle of the pillow, and on the exposed sheet the untidy evidence of their urgency.” ‘A Fan’s Notes,’ Frederick Exley.
  20. “Ah, brig, good-night / To crew and you; / The ocean’s heart too smooth, too blue, / To break for you.” “Shipwreck,” Emily Dickinson.
  21. “And then later that business down below, his thick cock that blue-brown of Mediterranean types and, he wonders if her hair there is as curly as the hair on her head, in and out, he can’t believe it will happen, while the rest of them sit here listening to the rain.” ‘Rabbit Is Rich,’ John Updike.
  22. “These are her underclothes, in this drawer. This pink set here she had never worn. She was wearing slacks of course and a shirt when she died.” ‘Rebecca,’ Daphne du Maurier.
  23. “‘If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’ ” ‘The Great Gatsby,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  24. “In the black pubic hair, ladies and gentlemen, weighing one hundred and seventy pounds, at least half of which is still undigested halvah and hot pastrami, from Newark, NJ, The Shnoz, Alexander Portnoy! And his opponent, in the fair fuzz, with her elegant polished limbs and the gentle maidenly face of a Botticelli, that ever-popular purveyor of the social amenities here in the Garden, one hundred and fourteen pounds of Republican refinement, and the pertest pair of nipples in all New England, from New Canaan, Connecticut, Sarah Abbott Maulsby! ” ‘Portnoy’s Complaint,’ Philip Roth.
  25. “When the first gosling poked its gray-green head through the goose’s feathers and looked around, Charlotte spied it and made the announcement.” ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ E.B. White.
  26. “Not a dandelion in sight here, the lawns are picked clean. I long for one, just one, rubbishy and insolently random and hard to get rid of and perennially yellow as the sun.” ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Margaret Atwood.
  27. “At the violet hour, when the eyes and back / Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits / Like a taxi throbbing waiting.” ‘The Waste Land,’ T. S. Eliot.
  28. “For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks.” ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ Truman Capote.

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