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.
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.”
You know that dream of Tolstoy’s where he’s in some sort of bed contraption suspended between the abyss below and the abyss above? You know that one? Well, I gave it to him, the Lord said.
See That You Remember
Franz Kafka once called his writing a form of prayer.
He also reprimanded the long-suffering Felice Bauer in a letter: “I did not say that writing ought to make everything clearer, but instead makes everything worse; what I said was that writing makes everything clearer and worse.”
He frequently fretted that he was not a human being and that what he bore on his body was not a human head. Once he dreamt that as he lay in bed, he began to jump out the open window continuously at quarter-hour intervals.
“Then trains came and one after another they ran over my body, outstretched on the tracks, deepening and widening the two cuts in my neck and legs.”
I didn’t give him that one, the Lord said.
Not His Best
Excerpted from 99 Stories of God. Used by permission of Byliner.