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.
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’ve had near-death experiences, however.”
“Quite a different matter,” the child said.
“Shall I tell you what it felt like?”
The fog was so thick, the child could not see the lion. Still, the fog was pleasant, as was their ascent through it.
“I was possessed, overwhelmed, consumed, filled up by a blessed, utterly unknown presence,” the lion said.
“Was it …” the child hesitated, searching for the right word “… consoling?”
“Yes,” the lion said. “An inexplicably consoling irony filled my heart.”
“Will I experience the same, do you think?”
“I don’t know,” the lion said, a little afraid for them both for the first time. “Perhaps not.”
“I would not know what irony is,” the child said.
Excerpted from 99 Stories of God. Used by permission of Byliner.