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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story


Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story Cover




Daniel Alarcón


Joy Williamss Dimmer



Joy Williams is one of those unique and instantly recognizable storytelling voices, capable of finding the mysterious and magical heart within even the most ordinary human acts. Her stories begin in unexpected places, and take surprising turns toward their eventual end. She doesnt describe life; she exposes it. She doesnt write scenes, she evokes them with a finely observed gesture, casually reinterpreted to provide maximum, often devastating, insight:

He had straddled the baby as it crept across the ground as though little Mal were a gulch he had no intention of falling into.

The baby in this startling image is Mal Vester, the unlucky and unloved protagonist of “Dimmer.” He is a survivor, but there is no romantic luster to his suffering. Mal is rough, untamed, stricken, desperate, and alone. His father, who never wanted him, dies in the first sentence; his mother, the only person who loved him without restraint, dies in the second. Her death haunts this beatiful, moving story, right up until the very last line; but what keeps us reading to the end is the prose, which constantly unpacks and explains Mals unlikely world with inventive and striking images. Williams has done something special: she makes Mals drifting, his lack of agency, narratively compelling. Life happens to Mal; it is inflicted upon him, a series of misfortunes that culminate in his exile. (A lonelier airport has never appeared in short fiction.) Mal never speaks, but somehow, I didnt realize it until the third time Id read “Dimmer.” I knew him so well, felt his tentative joy and fear so intimately, it was as if hed been whispering in my ear all along.


Copyright © 2012 by The Paris Review

Product Details

The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
The Paris Review
Stein, Lorin
Stein, Sadie
The, Paris Review
Picador USA
Anthologies (multiple authors)
Edition Description:
Rough Front/Deckel Edge
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » General
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Readers from Magazines

Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story Used Trade Paper
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Product details 368 pages Picador USA - English 9781250005984 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A selection of fiction culled from the influential journal's archive with a twist: writers often featured in the journal's pages — Lorrie Moore, David Means, Ann Beattie, Wells Tower, Ali Smith, among others — offer brief critical analyses of their selections, elevating this book from a greatest hits anthology to a kind of mini-M.F.A. Sam Lipsyte's take on Mary Robison's 'Likely Lake' is as much a demonstration of the economy of powerful writing as the story itself and Ben Marcus's tribute to Donald Barthelme's 'magician... language' in 'Several Garlic Tales' illustrates how learning can occur when one writer inhabits another writer's mind to geek out over what they both love. If the essays are uneven, the stories almost never are, ranging from the widely read (Ethan Canin's 'The Palace Thief') to the unexpected (Mary-Beth Hughes's bleakly funny 'Pelican Song'). The editors call this a guide for young writers and readers interested in literary technique, and the book achieves that purpose while also serving as a tribute to the role the Paris Review has played in maintaining the diversity of the short story form. The collection reminds us that good stories are always whispering into each other's ears." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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