The Visiting Privilege: New and Selected Stories
by Joy Williams (Serpent’s Tail, £9.99)
That the general British readership is unaware of perhaps the greatest living master of the short story, the 73-year-old American writer Joy Williams, is a matter of some shame – but also cause for exultation, because an enthralling discovery awaits. Mystery seems to be the very soul of her stories, whether it lies in their interpretive indeterminacy, in the surreal turn some of them take, or in their frequent gestures towards the metaphysical; they remain irreducible and inexhaustible. Nearly all of her narratives pivot on a transformative moment, often occurring outside the margins of the pages. The new stories are mostly about the final and greatest of all transformations: dying and death. Like some subatomic particle, Williams can be in two states simultaneously, compassionate and ruthless. Her vision is angular, undeluded, astringent. The blank space between each of her sentences is loaded with intelligence and surprise, because you can never tell what the next sentence is going to be or bring.