Author(s): Diane Williams; Ben Marcus (Introduction by)
With over three hundred new and previously published short stories as well as three novellas, The Collected Stories of Diane Williams brings together distilled works of "unsettling brilliance" (Vanity Fair) that have rewritten the rules of American short fiction. From Ben Marcus' introduction to The Collected Stories of Diane Williams "Diane Williams has spent her long, prolific career concocting fictions of perfect strangeness, most of them no more than a page long. She's a hero of the form: the sudden fiction, the flash fiction, whatever it's being called these days. The stories are short. They defy logic. They thumb their nose at conventional sense, or even unconventional sense. But if sense is in short supply in these texts, that leaves more room for splendor and sorrow. These stories upend expectations and prize enigma and the uncanny above all else. The Williams epiphany should be patented, or bottled--on the other hand, it should also be regulated and maybe rationed, because it's severe. It's a rare feeling her stories trigger, but it's a keen and deep and welcome one, the sort of feeling that wakes us up to complication and beauty and dissonance and fragility."
If it is necessary to move out to the very edge of ourselves, to the part of ourselves that is least ourselves, to be near another person, another person who has also moved out to the very edge of themselves, to the part of themselves that is least themselves, in order to be near us, what value can there be in any communication that takes place, if any communication can take place, between parties who are therefore almost strangers even to themselves? Diane Williams’ short, energetic, hugely disorienting short stories pass as sal volatile through the fug of relationships, defamiliarising the ordinary elements of everyday lives to expose the sad, ludicrous, hopeless topographies of what passes for existence. This is not a nihilistic enterprise, however, for Williams has immense sympathies and her stories themselves demonstrate the possibility of connection through the very act of delineating its impossibility. With the finest of needles, the most ordinary of details, Williams picks out the unacknowledged, unacknowledgeable but familiar hopeless longing that underlies our unreasoned and unreasonable striving for human relations, a longing that makes us more isolated the harder we strive for connection. So much is left unsaid in these stories that they act as foci for the immense unseen weight of their contexts, precisely activating pressure-points on the reader’s sensibilities. These are some of the finest stories you will read.