Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams

I discovered Williams from an intro she did for Jane Bowles, so this may color my review slightly. But Williams is the heir apparent to the twisted comic crown once (briefly) worn by Bowles (who someone once called “the Buxter Poindexter of prose”). Like Bowles she is sui generis, but they definitely travel in the same park. Insane characters revealing themselves with deadpan confessions delivered in stylized dialogue is the main show here. The elliptical “plot” or “structure” is as open ended as “Two Serious Ladies”, and somewhat resembles a short story cycle with overlapping characters and themes. She puts enough ideas for several books by a lesser writer (and an arguably more restrained one) in an errant description or stray line of dialogue. But editing would have lost us even a moment of this odyssey through a rogues gallery of American impulses, obsessions, anxieties, and grotesques; a deluge of surreal banter and lunatics.

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