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Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, each a motherless child, are an unlikely circle of friends. One filled with convictions, another with loss, the third with a worldly pragmatism, they traverse an air-conditioned landscape eccentric with signs and portents—from the preservation of the living dead in a nursing home to the presentation of the dead as living in a wildlife museum—accompanied by restless, confounded adults. A father lusts after his handsome gardener even as he’s haunted (literally) by his dead wife; a heartbroken dog runs afoul of an angry neighbor; a young stroke victim drifts westward, his luck running from worse to awful; a sickly musician for whom Alice develops an attraction is drawn instead toward darker imaginings and solutions; and an aging big-game hunter finds spiritual renewal through his infatuation with an eight-year-old—the formidable Emily Bliss Pickless. With nature thoroughly routed and the ambiguities of existence on full display, life and death continue in directions both invisible and apparent.
The first collection of stories in well over a decade by a writer Ann Beattie has called “one of our most remarkable storytellers,” and whom Bret Easton Ellis has named “the rightful heir to the mastery, genius, and poetry of Flannery O’Connor.”
These twelve stories further Joy Williams’s utterly singular achievement, described by the Washington Post as “poetic, disturbing, yet very funny… the brilliantly controlled style informed by a powerful spiritual vision,” and again reveal her ability to uncover, as Michiko Kakutani wrote in the New York Times, “the somber verities lurking beneath the flash and clamor of daily life.”
Her landscapes reach from Maine and Nantucket to the Southwest and into Mexico and Guatemala, while the events cover a…[more]
Most of us watch with mild concern the fast disappearing wild spaces or the recurrence of pollution - related crises such as oil spills, toxic blooms in fertilizer-enriched rivers, and the increasing violence in our own country.
Joy Williams does much more than watch. With guts and passion, she sounds the alarm over the general disconnection from the natural world that our consumer culture has created. The culling of elephants, electron-probed chimpanzees, and the vanishing wetlands are just some of her subjects.
Razor-sharp, controversial, scathingly opinionated, and refreshingly unafraid of conflict, Williams refuses to compromise as she lashes out at the greed of Americans and decries our own turpitude. It is not enough to mourn the passing of the natural world, Ill Nature shouts. Get out of our homes and our cars and our cubicles and do something…now.