I had the uncanny pleasure of hearing
Diane Williams read last night
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,
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.
is open for exam.
So too, with William’s stories.
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.
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”