Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Excitability

Diane Williams Excitability. Selected Stories 1986-1996 Dalkey Archive Press, 1998 Over the years, I’ve read and reread all of Diane Williams’ books, but Excitability is still my favorite. When I read it first, in my mid-twenties, I suspect that I more pretended to like it than actually enjoyed it. I grew into it. These are stories that take time to learn to read -- or else I am wrong. Maybe all that’s required is the willingness to be continuously jolted and discomfited. Whatever the case, it’s well worth it. Just as science needs explorers in the furthest reaches, with deep space probes or electron microscopes, so fiction needs Diane Williams. I think this is especially true now that very short stories have become ubiquitous and fashionable. Williams shows how fiction under a thousand words can be truly daring, even vast, and not just an exercise in cleverness, a convenience of the writing workshop. The recent work of Diane Williams (Romancer Erector, Vicky Swanky is a Beauty) is like a walk in a brilliant art gallery -- who doesn’t enjoy that? The older work is like going to see the graffiti and street art of an outlaw. In both cases you are looking at real art, but in the earlier work (on that perilous street) there is a feeling that you might at any moment be apprehended, mugged, violated. When I read the early stories, collected here, I feel I am a bit in danger. All her work is fascinating and necessary, but the recent work seems to me safer. Safe, in this case, is not a synonym for lesser but -- oh, how I relish the danger!

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