Stupefaction: Stories and a Novella

Overview

Praising her ingenious subversions of the conventions of narrative. The New York Times has called Diane Williams "a master spy, a double agent in the house of fiction." In this book she broadens the riotously disruptive program of her earlier collections. piecing together stories out of jagged shards of consciousness to give form to our most complicated longings.

In the title novella, Williams offers her version of paradise: A woman runs off ...

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Overview

Praising her ingenious subversions of the conventions of narrative. The New York Times has called Diane Williams "a master spy, a double agent in the house of fiction." In this book she broadens the riotously disruptive program of her earlier collections. piecing together stories out of jagged shards of consciousness to give form to our most complicated longings.

In the title novella, Williams offers her version of paradise: A woman runs off with a man on an enchanted journey across an enchanted landscape to an enchanted house, where their time is spent proving all the pleasures — eating, drinking, bathing, slumbering, and coupling — and where fantastic creatures, ravishing objects, and enthralling notions present themselves. But this sensual, blissful tale also becomes, in the female narrator's artful telling, a vehicle of discovery as she passes from state to state eluding our expectations of her.

The novella, Williams's first longer work, is accompanied by forty-nine short pieces, all of them superbly wry and knowing instances of the "sudden fiction" for which she is renowned. The Stupefaction is a stunning illumination of the heart and mind from one of our most innovative and audacious writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although Williams (Some Sexual Success Stories) has her own distinct style and manner, her latest collection holds few surprises for those familiar with her previous work. The 49 stories here are anti-narratives often less than a full page long. But, unlike postmodern innovators such as John Barth or Donald Barthelme, Williams seems to be essentially a one-trick pony. Her stories are fragmentary to the point of deliberate incoherence, and, in the manner of conceptual artists, she picks enigmatic or shocking titles-"A Moment of Panic," "Okeydoke," "The Fuck"-designed to shape the way a reader enters the text. In this collage of often scatological pieces, Williams's prose does attain an amusing archness, but it frequently slips into a highly mannered and self-indulgent tone. The title novella is no less fragmentary and obscure than her stories: in extremely abbreviated chapters, it details an erotic tryst between two lovers in an almost fairy-tale rustic landscape. Williams packs her short, almost aphoristic form with impressive cognitive-though not emotional-complexity. But her reliance on this form, with its brevity and its limited emotional range, marks her as a writer likely to appeal only to committed readers of experimental fiction. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
From Williams (This Is About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate, 1989, etc.), a minuscule third collection with no narrative pull, doses of sex—and an often surprising, amusing, and deft wit.

However tiny these 49 (not counting the "novella") pieces may be, the reader often struggles to figure out what they mean—and even then the effort may not seem worth it, especially when the narrator herself suggests the same feeling, as in "The Fuss" ("I cannot form an idea from this") or "Escapade" (". . . I am getting smaller and smaller and some of the stories I tell are not true. Maybe it is merely an experience of happiness that I must endure"). That neither of those pieces is much over 50 words long does little to assuage the tormented reader, as neither do Williams's blunt attempts to rattle readerly complacency ("your face is as composed as my vulva is," says a woman in "Desperately Trying to Lie Down" while "An Opening Chat" opens—well, this way: "I am glad he is this man here so that I can do a fuck with someone, but I am regarded as a better cock-sucker"). Still, William's tiny pieces aren't void either of content ("He dragged me along to this refined filth of a hotel, which aroused my truest false feeling"—"Speech") or wit ("We manage to copulate occasionally and to remain ill- qualified"—"The Idealist"). As for her novella, it's (apparently) about a couple ("She is nice, but she has aged") on a sex-tryst ("having put his impressively distinct penis up inside of her") in a cabin that's visited by an extraterrestrial of whom the speaker is able to say: "Its profile is remarkably like my mother's."

Only those incapable of laughter will dislike all of this small book, while even the most sympathetic will have to work for what they get.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517193129
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Series: RHVP-Remainder Ser.

Meet the Author

Diane Williams is the author of This is About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate and Some Sexual Success Stories Plus Other Stories in Which God Might Choose to Appear. She is coeditor of Story-Quarterly and lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

An Opening Chat 3
The Key to Happiness 5
A Shrewd and Cunning Authority 7
The Everlasting Sippers 9
The Power of Performance 11
The Blessing 13
Eero 15
The Idealist 17
A Moment of Panic 19
The Revenge 21
The Capture 23
O Rock! 25
The Lost Sex 27
Monsters 29
Luxuries 31
The Guider of the Prick 33
Excitability 35
Speech 37
For Diane 39
Plural 41
The Transformation 43
Gods of the Earth at Home 45
Desperately Trying to Lie Down 47
I Am a Learned Person 49
Careful 51
What Knowledge Is Most Worth Having? 53
Diagnosis 55
A More Detailed Account of This Is Out of the Question 57
The Fuck 59
The Grand Occasion 61
The Goal 63
My Reaction to Life 65
The Dirty Necklace 67
The Helpmeet 69
The Masturbator 71
Boiled and Starched 73
Okeydoke 75
The Fuss 77
Thank You 79
The Purpose 81
The Primary Intuition 83
Rain 85
The Festival 87
The Builder 89
The Answer to the Question 91
Their Privileges 93
Escapade 95
The Suitor 97
The Strong Petals of Quiet 99
The Stupefaction 101
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