Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams (pub. 2000)

Joy Williams is a fabulizer of the first degree of brilliance. Any character that occurs to her is given a universe of their own to be unworthy in. She does more in a few pages than others do in a whole book. As in life oddness is a common strategy, miasms of bafflement and bemusement give her creatures a reasonable amount of time to fabricate an alibi and find corroboration in a complex universe. Normally black isn’t funny but if you paint cerise over the black or lawn or shale over it then it becomes hilarious. The three 16 year old girls who run this novel, are they the Weird Sisters or the Fates or the Furies? There is pretty narcissist Annabell and her tippler father who talks to his undear undead departed, late but back, wife, Ginger. There are long conversations in which she urges him to various acts of folly all designed to bring them onto the same unpleasant bardo. Corvus the dark one whose parents died in Mexico has her special superpower of invincible gloom. Alice the eco-scold hunts cats with a deadly catapult.

Before I had read her in New American Stories she was unknown to me.
I am grateful for this deflection of light under my rock.
Alice reflects on the life she will have:
She was never going to seek gainful employment again, that was for certain. She'd remain outside the public sector. She'd be an anarchist, she'd travel with jaguars. She was going to train herself to be totally irrational. She'd fall in love with a totally inappropriate person. She'd really work on it, but abandon would be involved as well. She'd have different names, a.k.a. Snake, a.k.a. Snow—no, that was juvenile. She wanted to be extraordinary, to possess a savage glitter.

I could end up quoting it all but I refuse to be a Borgesian Menard. I stand aside.


john doyle said...

I'll give it a try.

ombhurbhuva said...

Hope you like it.
Breaking and Entering I finished today. Also good. She has the courage to finish a novel in midstream with a lot unresolved. It's the short story writer in her, I suppose. She's more known for them, again as a writer's writer which means down the list but well thought of.

john doyle said...

I see what you mean -- settings, sensibility, phraseology all idiosyncratic and acute.