Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty

I had the uncanny pleasure of hearing

Diane Williams read last night

at The Corner Bookstore.

I appreciate the seriousness

of Diane’s delivery.

Her voice has a way of extending the life of words

such that they begin to know each other in new

and conflicting ways.

I sat down this morning to read through her new collection,

“Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty.”

The texture of William’s prose reminded me of the feeling I had while watching the recent

Werner Herzog documentary,

Cave of Forgotten Dreams,

about the origin of our understanding of cave signs and symbols

and their relationship to the narrative tracking of historic and personal events.

Hertzog’s voice has that similarly

distilled, witty way

of unearthing surprise

through examining objects

from an obtuse, distanced lens.

The scientific is at once personal.

The personal

is open for exam.

So too, with William’s stories.

Blunt dialogue

meets exclamation.

Each chord is emphatic and yet strikes

an open-ended measure.

We end up feeling that the personal

is all the more persecuted and at bay.

Hertzog’s documentary charts the discovery of 32,000 year old drawings on the interior of the

Cave of Chauvet-Pont-D-Arc.

What struck me about the documentary was that

Herzog mentions that the moisture of the breath of visitors

sought to destroy the durability of the ancient renderings

and preempted further use of the cave as a tourist site.

I recently visited the origin

of the Ardèche River where the documentary was filmed

in the south of France.

The stone was red and brutal and evidenced

the power of water to draw gorges into

even the most unremitting of earth.

Diane Williams

seems to exhume that same sort of evidence

laying it bare for us to consider

and continually overturn.

For example, take the opening of her story, “Glee:”

“We have a drink of coffee and a Danish and it has this, what we call — grandmother cough-up —

a bright yellow filling.  The project is to resurrect glee.  This is the explicit reason I get on a bus and go to an area

where I do this and have a black coffee.

I emphasize, I confess, as well, that last night I came into a room, smiled a while and my laughter was like a hand on my own

shoulder.  As I opened up the volume of the television set, I saw a television beauty and a man wants to marry her and she says, “I

don’t do that sort of thing.””

For more excerpts, McSweeney’s Books has created a generous teaser with more of William’s

“Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty”

here.

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