With an introduction by Ben Marcus, this volume collects over three hundred new and previously published short, or "flash," fictions—distilled works examining moments, characters, relationships, and innuendo.
More than any other writer today, Diane Williams understands the essentially tragicomic nature of the penis, human or otherwise ... [Williams's] stories court laughter first, then, and only in retrospect, long-accumulated tears: tears of regret for opportunities lost, for people mislaid; tears of despair for the strangeness, the separateness that intimacy reveals and fails to overcome. You don’t have to read all three hundred and five stories to get the point. (Though you should. Williams can do more with two sentences than most writers can do with two hundred pages.) ... Language is as strange and wonderful a material as any, and Williams demands that you slow down to appreciate it, that you luxuriate in every letter, every word, the spaces and silences between them.
Williams’ stories run anywhere from a sentence to two and a half pages—but typically much shorter—into which are packed abstract miniature worlds of razor-sharp intellect, vivid prose stripped bare of illusion or ornament, and psychosexual longing. It is fiction that reads like the residue of a dream. Often there’s a sensation of being caught in a moment of self-realization or a glimpse into the embattled core of a restless psyche ... Williams’s work is not only brutal in the way it squeezes meaning from three or four lines; it’s brutalist in the architectural sense, rough-hewn and modular ... they’re words you can read over and over again with the same pleasurable disorientation; they communicate some wild combination of loneliness, terror, and lurking violence. Doing the work, that is, of the most urgent and outrageous of fictions ... the work is ever-pressurized, crushing inward on the trappings of personhood ... Depending on how you define it, there is as much content in these stories to sink your teeth into than any number of dry social novels. See how much you can do, Diane Williams seems to say, when you concentrate; beyond the bullshit is the raw material of the unconstructed self.
Williams’s fiction has the rhythm and diction of East Coast speech, and the intensity and sociality of the letter-writer who cranks herself up to offer a distillate from the endlessly mundane ... What is veiled (or just normal) about her life is revealed (or fabulated) in her fiction, which is full of funny, libidinal and invigorating enigmas. In her stories, roles and classifications are up for grabs. The narrator is usually a woman, but relations misbehave ... I resist describing Williams as an absurdist or surrealist (though I often think of Leonora Carrington, Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein while reading her). The narration is too homely, driven by idiosyncrasy, intimacy, and the valiant effort to maintain dignity. Besides, the sentences that come out of our mouths are routinely weirder than those we think to write ... It’s perfect to leave on the bedside table, to be consulted before one’s dreamlife begins