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The Visiting Privilege
Cover of The Visiting Privilege
The Visiting Privilege
New and Collected Stories
Borrow Borrow
The definitive story collection “by one of the most celebrated American short-story writers…. Powerful, important, compassionate, and full of dark humor. This is a book that will be reread with admiration and love many times over” (Vanity Fair).

Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. At long last the incredible scope of her singular achievement is put on display: thirty-three stories drawn from three much-lauded collections, and another thirteen appearing here for the first time in book form. Forty-six stories in all, far and away the most comprehensive volume in her long career, showcasing her crisp, elegant prose, her dark wit, and her uncanny ability to illuminate our world through characters and situations that feel at once peculiar and foreign and disturbingly familiar.
Virtually all American writers have their favorite Joy Williams stories, as do many readers of all ages, and each one of them is available here.
The definitive story collection “by one of the most celebrated American short-story writers…. Powerful, important, compassionate, and full of dark humor. This is a book that will be reread with admiration and love many times over” (Vanity Fair).

Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. At long last the incredible scope of her singular achievement is put on display: thirty-three stories drawn from three much-lauded collections, and another thirteen appearing here for the first time in book form. Forty-six stories in all, far and away the most comprehensive volume in her long career, showcasing her crisp, elegant prose, her dark wit, and her uncanny ability to illuminate our world through characters and situations that feel at once peculiar and foreign and disturbingly familiar.
Virtually all American writers have their favorite Joy Williams stories, as do many readers of all ages, and each one of them is available here.
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About the Author-
  • JOY WILLIAMS is the author of four novels—the most recent, The Quick and the Dead, was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 2001—and three other collections of stories, as well as Ill Nature, a book of essays that was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Among her many honors are the Rea Award for the Short Story and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected to the Academy in 2008. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, and Laramie, Wyoming.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2015
    Four dozen stories by one of the form's greatest practitioners. Like pitchers, some writers are openers, and some are closers. Few are as accomplished as Williams (Honored Guest, 2004, etc.) in condensing the whole of a large, often painful world into a few closing sentences: "She coughs, but it is not the cough of a sick person because Pammy is a healthy girl." "It was like he was asking me which flavor of ice cream I liked. I thought for a moment, then went to the dictionary he kept on a stand and looked the word up." "She looked at the lamp. The lamp looked back at her as though it had no idea who she was." Not that Williams can't open a story well (one lead: "My mother began going to gun classes in February. She quit the yoga"); it's just that her most arresting moments come well after we've stepped into the world she's created. That world has less dirt for its characters to get under their fingernails than, say, Raymond Carver's, but it has some of the same uneasiness: if people are doing OK one minute, they're going to stumble the next, and it's often the things unnoticed or unspoken that will trip them. In the title story, for instance, it's not just the protagonist's offhand comment that ends a long-crumbling friendship: "We're all alone in a meaningless world. That's it. OK?" Just because it's meaningless doesn't mean it shouldn't be feared, though; in another singular moment, a young girl is terrified that birds will fly out of the toilet. Why wouldn't they? And why don't all short stories feature Gregory of Nyssa and javelinas? Williams, to belabor the metaphor, isn't just a closer, but a utility player at the top of her game. If you want to see how the pros do it-or simply want to read some of the best stories being written today-you need look no further.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2015
    It's the odd details that get you in Williams' meticulously composed, acerbically dark short storiesdisquieting, axis-tipping, heat-stroke tales of mental breakdown, alienation, divorce, car accidents, environmental disaster, and death. In In the Park, one of 13 new stories in this mighty retrospective embracing four decades of daring literary excellence, precisely calibrated imagination, and uncompromising candor, a ranger too gloomy about our destruction of nature to lead hikes for children actually sweats blood. Sneaking a smoke in the parking lot, he watches a raven investigating the interior of an open convertible. The bird, with its aura of Poe, picks up a pen, then drops it in favor of an empty beer huggie, a choice rife with many-chambered irony, which is one of Williams' many fortes. Thirty-three stories from past collections, including the perfect Rot, are gathered herescorching works that have established Williams as a virtuoso with a subversive, sure-footed sense of humor and an unsparing perspective on the marauding strangeness of the human condition. Williams' brooding, wry, and unpredictable new tales, including the somberly gorgeous Revenant and the sardonic Cats and Dogs, feature dementia, funerals, a boy channeling his dead grandparents, outlaw self-destruction, imperiled animals, mothers of infamous murderers, and unsupportive support groups. Jolting, tonic and valiant in their embrace of the ludicrous and the tragic, Williams' masterful stories belong in every fiction collection.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • Nicole Jones, Vanity Fair "By one of the most celebrated American short-story writers. . . these forty-six stories are powerful, important, compassionate, and full of dark humor. This is a book that will be reread with admiration and love many times over."
  • Christian Lorentzen, New York "This volume traces Joy Williams's journey to sui generis master. Her nearest cousin among American writers is Don DeLillo, but only because, as with him, nobody writes sentences like she does. . . . Though she treats common states--parenthood, pet ownership, alcoholism--Williams eschews the realist story writer's bromide that in the ordinary we find the extraordinary, because there's nothing ordinary about her work."
  • John Waters, The San Francisco Chronicle "Such brilliant and depressing fiction that after I read it I was nervous to ever try writing again. . . . Hope is very damaged in these pages, but you will find yourself laughing out loud as you muffle a gasp of crippled optimism. I am a real Johnny-come-lately to Joy Williams, but since finishing this new collection I have run out and bought every book she ever wrote. You should, too."
  • Lincoln Michael, Editor-in-Chief, Electric Literature "Joy Williams has long been one of America's greatest living writers, and The Visiting Privilege might [be] the best book of the year. Her sentences are as sharp and precise as scalpel incisions, and her ability to turn the real beautifully surreal is second to none. . . . If you have yet to read Williams's work, there is no better place to start than this book, which collects stories from across her decades of groundbreaking work alongside several new stories."
  • Laura Van Den Berg, O Magazine "[This] is powerfully united by Joy Williams's profound gift for illuminating, with compassion and mordant humor, characters on the jagged edge of grief and spiritual ruin. . . . The search for mercy is at odds with a landscape that is increasingly merciless--and yet hope remains [and]the stories are rich with tenderness. . . . The Visiting Privilege is also laced with Williams's trademark cutting wit, which provides a small release, as of steam escaping through a pressure valve, while also pushing the stories' dark absurdity."
  • Ben Marcus, The New York Times Book Review "Immaculate artistry [and] one of the most fearless, abyss-embracing literary projects our literature has seen [with] the sort of helpless laughter that erupts when a profound moral project is conducted with such blinding literary craft. . . . If Williams keeps writing fiction--ruthless, hilarious work that holds our human folly to the fire--the novel and the short story won't perish anytime soon."
  • Shane Jones, Vice "One of the most important and radical books published this fall. And Joy Williams has been doing it for decades. . . She will [now] be read more than any point in her career. This is a great thing, because looking around, we need Joy Williams more than ever."
  • Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News "Unquestionably, the short story collection of this year. . . . Williams has been one of the great living individualists and masters of the short story [and] lionized in America's innermost literary circles. . . . He work can be stark, brutal, creepy, tragic and hilarious, [and] all forty-six stories here are magnificently written."
  • Joan Frank, The San Francisco Chronicle "Williams is brilliant in her commentary. . . . To enter The Visiting Privilege--a mammoth, definitive collection of her stories--is to smack face-first into astonishment: best words, best order. But more: One is constantly aware of a taut sensibility infusing them. Dispassionate but not uncompassionate, this steady, Flaubertian presence, both witness and engine, demonstrates (beyond 'mere' mastery of craft) one sublime measure of literary art. . . . Seamlessly linked, precise, forceful, they spear the reading ear, piercing to hard, weird truth. They propose by their very existence--as much as by the story-freight they deliver--that we readers follow their lead and drop all artifice."
  • Vol. 1 Brooklyn "The year of Joy Williams. . . [She] writes some of the most memorably unclassifiable fiction out there [and] can move from precise realism to disquieting surrealism in a moment's notice; she's an incomparable figure in American lite
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New and Collected Stories
Joy Williams
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