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—Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine (Top 10 Books of 2012)
“The stories are indeed varied in their style, as the editors’ note promises, but many of them left me with the same feeling: devastation.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Object Lessons [is] my new favorite gift book.”—Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune
“This thoughtful book will make you look at short fiction with new eyes.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“As the ‘Best American’ anthologies begin their annual take-over of bookstore shelf space this month, short story fans should look past those displays to find this collection curated from the archives of The Paris Review.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“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
“A compendium of The Paris Review’s short story hits, curated with the ambitious, aspiring writer in mind. … Jeffrey Eugenides’ discussion of Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” captures that story’s heartbreak and serves as an essay on the virtues of the form itself. … A smart showcase of a half-century’s worth of pathways in fiction.”—Kirkus
Joy Williams’s 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 doesn’t describe life; she exposes it. She doesn’t 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 Mal’s unlikely world with inventive and striking images. Williams has done something special: she makes Mal’s 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 didn’t realize it until the third time I’d read “Dimmer.” I knew him so well, felt his tentative joy and fear so intimately, it was as if he’d been whispering in my ear all along.
Copyright © 2012 by The Paris Review