Joy williams ninety nine stories of god

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joy williams ninety nine stories of god

99 Stories of God by Joy Williams

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Joy Williams has a one-of-a-kind gift for capturing both the absurdity and the darkness of everyday life. In Ninety-Nine Stories of God, she takes on one of mankind’s most confounding preoccupations: the Supreme Being.

This series of short, fictional vignettes explores our day-to-day interactions with an ever-elusive and arbitrary God. It’s the Book of Common Prayer as seen through a looking glass—a powerfully vivid collection of seemingly random life moments. The figures that haunt these stories range from Kafka (talking to a fish) to the Aztecs, Tolstoy to Abraham and Sarah, O. J. Simpson to a pack of wolves. Most of Williams’s characters, however, are like the rest of us: anonymous strivers and bumblers who brush up against God in the least expected places or go searching for Him when He’s standing right there.

The Lord shows up at a hot-dog-eating contest, a demolition derby, a formal gala, and a drugstore, where he’s in line to get a shingles vaccination. At turns comic and yearning, lyric and aphoristic, Ninety-Nine Stories of God serves as a pure distillation of one of our great artists.
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Published 06.01.2019

London Book Haul

The collection does contain 99 flash fiction works exploring the mysterious, the miraculous, and the inexplicable. In a word, they concern God. But, they do not concern the benefits of faith.
Joy Williams


Tin House Books. It was reissued in by Fairy Tale Review Press. It was first published as an e-book in by the digital upstart Byliner, to critical as well as authorial neglect. In an interview with The Paris Review Williams boasted that she had never seen the finished e-book version and did not care to; neither was it mined for her collected stories. It appears now in boards and paper for the first time from Tin House Books, a small independent press with a well-earned reputation for punching above its weight.

There is a theological parable devised by the impeccably named English philosopher John Wisdom but often adapted and updated by others. The version I first heard, years ago, went something like this: Two travellers return to a once neglected garden and find it miraculously restored to life. One of the travellers suggests that this is proof that a gardener has been tending the patch. The other disagrees, and they decide to set up watch. No one appears, which prompts the believer to suggest that an invisible gardener must be doing the work. Various monitors—bloodhounds, motion detectors, night-vision cameras—are put in place, but none register the appearance of the ghostly gardener.

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The story is revealed, the mood shifts, clause by careful clause. Further, these moods are understated. For all its sentence-level simplicity, Ninety-nine Stories is a book filled with subtleties and nuance, layered moods and complex ideas.
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