Joy Williams 1944–
American novelist and short story writer.
In Williams's fiction, the ordinary events of daily life are susceptible to bizarre turns of horror and individuals are lost in their private selves, unable to comprehend the forces which shape their lives. Although Williams occasionally alleviates her bleak vision with humor, a sense of hopelessness and despair remains central to her work. Her first novel, State of Grace (1973), was hailed by critics as the work of a promising talent. While faulted for its lack of structural cohesiveness, the novel impressed critics with its powerful evocation of a fictional world.
The Changeling (1978), Williams's second novel, disappointed most critics. Some reviewers again commended Williams's surrealistic intensity, but they generally considered her treatment of the fine line between psychosis and reality unconvincing and her character development inadequate. Williams's first collection of short stories, Taking Care (1982), received mixed reviews. Although two of the stories are affirmations of love, most of them depict unsuccessful marriages, ineffective communication, and aimless, encumbered characters who fail to gain insight into their lives or their selves. While critics generally view this as an uneven collection, they praise Williams's crisp writing and her skillful representation of the characters' subjective realities.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 41-44, rev. ed.)