10/15 Joy Williams




Love this Joy Williams quote from her reading, " A writer is not supposed to make friends with his writing." Would be great to discuss this if there is time and desire.

She also refers to the writer with a "male" pronoun. Interesting. And odd as she references herself frequently in her essay. Why the "writer" is male?


1.  How does Joy Williams feel about being lumped into the Kmart Realism category?

2.  Does Joy William's biography mirrored in her stories?

3.  Joy William's strength (one of them) is to find humor in something dark.  How does she 
do this?  Does she add the comedy later and start with a dark subject or vice-versa?


I just listened to Joy WIlliams' essay from youtube.  I don't have a question, really, just a comment, that I am incredibly amazed that I could find her words so moving and beautiful, and believe her sincerity to be real and true, and yet disagree so deeply with everything she said.  I wish I had the text, I would go through it point by point disagreeing, while admiring her words.   
I am glad she was born and raised in 20th century america, from the sound of her, and her conclusions, and positions on life, I feel that in another, more harsh and unforgiving time and place, she would have been chewed up and spat out by reality.  I kind of love people like her, children of the earth, children of god, and that I live in a time and place that takes care of them, and offers them a chance to be part of humanity.  
I took a break just now to listen to the interview, and I really just can't down with these people.  When they speak my skin crawls with the pretension in the interviewers assumption of existential and epistemological premises.  All that talk of "planes" and "worlds" and how Kant isn't mentioned because of philosophical relevance, "the writer is a vessel" for things they "cannot know" about?
I think he's full of shit, in a very real way, full of shit that makes me want to pick a fight with him, punch him in the face and remind him that life is real, not some swimming ambiguity he can shape to his own solipsistic pseudo-musings that induce him to his self-congratulatory little giggle.  Ms. Williams continues to be more endearing (and more sincere than Mr. Silverblatt may have ever been in his life), but my opinion above was deepened and solidified by my the interview.   
I'll have more straight questions soon, I suppose.  

Again, I don't really have questions, but after reading the stories, I have some comments which I could phrase as questions?  (see?)
Okay, the stories were interesting, I enjoyed pieces of them and thought the Train was very interesting.  There are moments when characters sort of go off in their own heads out loud, sometimes taking on larger and more epic positions.  Boris the mechanic from from Rot does this in a way that I was really excited to read, though the rest of the story, while it had some movement, essentially fell flat for me, particularly in light of that one passage on page 23.  
Because of the interviews it is clear she has a definitive idea of what a story is and what a writer is that I think is somewhat limited, and because she speaks so generally (and in the first reading from youtube, using the male pronoun "he" when referring to the "writer," I wonder if she was making some sort of additional commentary) and in such a matter-of-fact way (even when she is equivocating) that I feel as if I have to take her at her word.  
She believes the writer is supposed to touch on some ineffable emotional moment, to leave the reader with a touch of emotion, or something like that.  Her stories and characters meander from realism to surrealism at will, the circumstances can turn from realistic to absurdest in a single sentence, I can believe any of her stories are happening right next door, and could never happen anywhere, depending on the page.  I admire the freedom and experimentation she assumes is hers, consistency be damned, but I wish she had more to say, because the emotional touches rarely touch me, especially at the end of the stories which are all text-book anti-climaxes (and I honestly don't care if its on purpose, its still a let down).   
I didn't try too hard to phrase these observations as questions.  Sorry about that.  


1) It seems critics tend to attack Kmart Realism for its nihilistic perspective rather than its spare style. Does that seem accurate?
2) Why do you think the minimalist mode has lasted so long?
3) Has criticism had any demonstrable effect on minimalism? And is it a widely accepted view that minimalism is "bad" for literature?


Why do Joy William’s stories feel like they have no endings?
Joy Williams says she’s not writing for herself or the reader, but a bigger purpose. What is her motivation in her writing?
What is the allure of writers to want to write such depressing stories? What is the allure of readers to want to read them?


1.             Please expound on Joy Williams' comment in "Shifting Things," where she says, “to create a character who gets out of life having lived it, having spectacularly lived it, used it all up."  Which of Joy Williams' characters do you feel is closest to having lived life spectacularly and completely, someone who might have succeeded in a wet-sheet escape?

2.              To me, "Rot," "Train," and even "Honored Guest" are about the same thing:  a journey where the journey is the thing, but the destination is nothingness.  Or maybe in "Honored Guest," the snowball is the thing, because it's made of water and it is soon to be gone; soon there can’t even be a puddle left.  Except that a snowball, on the face of it, seems to connote childishness and to have a charm to it -- until it is thrown by a dying woman to hurt the child for whom she no longer has sufficient interest to see there will be oil heat to warm the child after her death. Please comment.

3.             Is Helen in "Honored Guest" a Joy Williams surrogate?

4.             Frederick Barthelme in "On Being Wrong:  Convicted Minimalist Spills Beans," has the long passage we read in class about being on the highway and smelling the skunk and its being interesting, what's going on in the parking lot -- where he goes back to all sorts of antecedents such as Chekhov and Alain Robe-Grillet and Flaubert and Fitzgerald.  When you, Tao Lin, are on the highway or in the parking lot, are you picking up the scent especially of, say, a Flaubert, or someone like Nathalie Sarraute, or whom, and why?


1. Madison Bell ("Less is Less") says Hemingway's "A Clean Well Lighted Place" is better than the contemporary "minimalists" because Hemingway conceived of lives for his characters outside of the story (saying, "Those unspoken elements of the story add to its force, but in its myriad contemporary imitations the unspoken has simply been left unthought."), but don't certain things in stories we've read—the last lines of "Driver" and "Shifting" or the various boyfriends named "Joe" in "Graveyard Day" are two examples off the top of my head—seem to directly contradict that? (I suppose this is just a roundabout way of saying that I think Madison Bell is willfully ignorant or a bad reader rather than a real question per se.)

2. In "Honored Guest," why does Williams write about waiting for the mother to die, but not her actual death? It surprised me that she didn't die at the end…maybe that was the point.

3. In "Rot," the character seems to have almost no reaction to her husband putting the car in the house. Did this seem strange/inappropriate/too unrealistic for anyone else?


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