An omnibus of short-short fiction by sometimes-playful, sometimes-pensive avant-gardist Williams (Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, 2016, etc.).
Talk about economy of expression: This book clocks in at just shy of 800 pages and yet contains more than 300 short stories. At their best and most evocative, these stories are something between fairy tale and vignette, as with “Girl with a Pencil,” which suggests that the child is mother to the woman by means of art and storytelling: “And so was invented a kind of brute—a brunette with longish hair, who must love her enemies—who acts responsibly.” As Ben Marcus notes in a foreword, the mystery in Williams’ work often lies in the transitions, which we take to mean the largely unspoken connections from paragraph to paragraph. “All I remember is our kinship, which makes me sick,” says the narrator of a story scarcely more than a couple of hundred words long. “I have gone so very far to deny death.” She adds, after a beat and a paragraph break, “It is already only a memory.” What “it” refers to could be any number of antecedents, attaching each of which to the pronoun changes the story ever so slightly. It’s a nice trick, one that doesn’t boast. So is the close of a somber story that leaves one wondering at what the real ending might be: “I am angry toward the end of the day, but you won’t have to find out much about that.” Elsewhere the connections are unspoken even within paragraphs: “He stumbled. He fell down. I might have struck him, that’s why,” runs one paragraph in its entirety. There’s Laurel and Hardy slapstick in there—and menace, too. Although a couple of the more Dada-ish moments don’t quite work and a couple of puns (“I want to end this at the flabber, although I am flabbergasted”) seem forced, it’s altogether a pleasure for readers attentive to both language and story.
Fans of flash fiction will want to study at the feet of this master of the form.