Centrifugal stories, supershort and superpithy, by avant-gardist Williams.
In Williams' stories, a non sequitur has the same weight as an ordinary logical proposition, as if to suggest that either we are very illogical creatures indeed or that no one is really listening to anyone else anyway. So it is that in the opening tale, the narrator, poolside at an Illinois Marriott, implores the lifeguard to notice that swimmers are drowning, to which he replies, “I don’t speak Chinese.” Is it that the swimmers are Mandarin or that the characters are swimming their way through a dream? In the next story, a woman, clad in a “boiled woolen cloak,” dies on a roadway, occasioning the observation on the part of our narrator that “her facial features are remarkably symmetrical, expressing vigor and vulnerability.” Even when Williams’ characters are engaged in more or less quotidian acts, from washing the dishes to pleasuring a partner, there is an element of jerky oddness to their behavior, as if they were imperfectly programmed robots or ghosts—in short, ordinary humans, clumsily self-absorbed. Williams writes precise, elegant, and usually very short sentences, building a story piece by piece and conveying a great deal with just a few details; in the shortest of the pieces, weighing in at just 48 words, a woman on the way to drowning—and not a Chinese speaker this time—marvels that the water of the ocean “tasted like a cold, salty variety of her favorite payang congou tea.” The most perfect non sequitur? “My fault. Go fuck herself.” A little goes a long way: this is a book to sip from, not to devour whole. Charged with meaning, every word carrying more than its weight, this is a series of provocations inviting us to look at the world a little differently from before.
Not everyone’s cup of tea to be sure, but a pleasing foray in short-short fiction.