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THE STUPEFACTION by Diane Williams


Stories and a novella

by Diane Williams

Pub Date: May 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44186-7
Publisher: Knopf

From Williams (This Is About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate, 1989, etc.), a minuscule third collection with no narrative pull, doses of sex—and an often surprising, amusing, and deft wit. However tiny these 49 (not counting the ``novella'') pieces may be, the reader often struggles to figure out what they mean—and even then the effort may not seem worth it, especially when the narrator herself suggests the same feeling, as in ``The Fuss'' (``I cannot form an idea from this'') or ``Escapade'' (``. . . I am getting smaller and smaller and some of the stories I tell are not true. Maybe it is merely an experience of happiness that I must endure''). That neither of those pieces is much over 50 words long does little to assuage the tormented reader, as neither do Williams's blunt attempts to rattle readerly complacency (``your face is as composed as my vulva is,'' says a woman in ``Desperately Trying to Lie Down'' while ``An Opening Chat'' opens—well, this way: ``I am glad he is this man here so that I can do a fuck with someone, but I am regarded as a better cock-sucker''). Still, William's tiny pieces aren't void either of content (``He dragged me along to this refined filth of a hotel, which aroused my truest false feeling''—''Speech'') or wit (``We manage to copulate occasionally and to remain ill- qualified''—``The Idealist''). As for her novella, it's (apparently) about a couple (``She is nice, but she has aged'') on a sex-tryst (``having put his impressively distinct penis up inside of her'') in a cabin that's visited by an extraterrestrial of whom the speaker is able to say: ``Its profile is remarkably like my mother's.'' Only those incapable of laughter will dislike all of this small book, while even the most sympathetic will have to work for what they get.