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Ange Mlinko on Diane Williams

At the London Review of Books, Ange Mlinko puts her finger on the artistic sophistication of the short stories of Diane Williams:

First and last sentences are the drivers of any given Williams story: they jump-start, accelerate, coast, crash or arrest. The accelerative first sentence of ‘Upright Pearl’ runs: “How about the deity responsible for me? — why should it not move me through the realm, escort me to the other side of the predicament?” Then the brakes of the last sentence screech to a stop on the next page: “The disorder in my left knee has returned, and this time for a different reason than the last time, I have pallor, debilitating pain, possibly fever, a noticeable tumour involving a tendon, and persistent tingling in my affected good try and first haunting.” ‘Great Deed’ begins: “Far off he saw his peril — that is, a friend — and she waved.” It ends: “The sleep, dear guest, was sleep. Dear guest, your request not to be disturbed has been acknowledged.”

By paying attention to language at its most fine-grained — every hesitation, every repetition is keenly considered — Williams makes me think of Flaubert dreaming of a literature “about nothing” precisely because it’s about everything. Consider this sentence: “If the two of them have really ever been tender with one another, these people, this morning, will be so mythological as if not to be yet beyond belief.” I wonder how long she agonised over the intrusion of “if not” and “yet” in “as if not to be yet beyond belief”.