Joy Williams

What I’m Reading

In a detailed how-to piece on submitting to literary magazines, Ryo Yamaguchi says, “I write to trend, and I write against it.” In other words, pay attention to what other writers are doing, but don’t let that trap you. I recommend perusing the rest of the article, which can be found on The Michigan Quarterly Review’s delightful blog. Thanks also to The Review Review for tipping me off.

joy williams godIn an earlier post on this distinguished internet thingie, I referred to an interview by editor Lincoln Michel with the esteemed and strange author Joy Williams. And what do I find today, but an excerpt of her new collection, Ninety-Nine Stories of God, courtesy of the irrepressible resource, Lithub.

…Which also published this thought-provoking overview of books that stimulate – some more mildly than others – the human emotion known as empathy. I’ve encountered that emotion before. It being (as I mentioned) a human trait, what little experience I did get with empathy fredric jameson antimoniesgave me gas. I don’t recommend it.

(The latter article points to Fredric Jameson’s scholarly tome, The Antimonies of Realism, which Lithub makes out to be a perfect object to read ostentatiously on the curb outside Lorin Stein’s apartment. They paraphrase Jameson’s opinion on the contemporary time period known as “modernity” thusly: Jameson believes that modernity creates an “irreconcilable divorce between intelligibility and experience, between meaning and existence.” Quite so! My thoughts exactly. But then again, I never assumed that meaning and existence were dating? Forgive me, but isn’t it in bad form to presume knowledge of a couple’s relationship without any verifiable evidence thereof? Harumph. Perhaps I am unforgivably antiquated in my notions about etiquette.)

Hate or Love Twitter, It Found Me Joy Williams

joy williams barn oklahoma

In “When An Internet Skeptic Takes to Twitter,” Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies, decries the flittersphere in no uncertain terms. Denigrating the “toddler-talk sound of the word” Twitter, Birkerts goes on to call the popular site an “unceasing purposeless chatter-stream” and a “mad bazaar of self-promotion…”

I agree. How hard it is to keep one’s head on straight in these heady days of our budding information age! Alas!

Shortly afterward, on Twitter, I came across a link to a Vice News interview with acclaimed short story writer and veritable luddite Joy Williams, known by many as an early darling of both Gordon Lish and George Plimpton during the early days of her career in the 1970’s. According to interviewer (and member of the Big Apple literati himself) Lincoln Michel, Williams commenced to schedule their talk by sending him a postcard from Oklahoma with a picture of a barn on it and her phone number on the back. She then mailed him a hard copy of her answers to his questions.

I recommend perusing the interview in its entirety. Among other things, Williams declares:

I used to rather like the word “empathy.” Now I feel it’s not nearly strong enough. Nor is sympathy hard enough. We need a radical shift in consciousness, a more generous conception of the whole, which is far more inclusive than we prefer to believe.

And just one of her rules for writing effective short stories:

8) A certain coldness is required in execution. It is not a form that gives itself to consolation but if consolation is offered it should come from an unexpected quarter.

Try to find a ruby with that kind of shine inside the Twitter mine, why don’t you?