Joy Williams Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Although Joy Williams is known mainly for her short fiction, she is also the author of the novels State of Grace (1973), The Changeling (1978), Breaking and Entering (1988), and The Quick and the Dead (2000) and a book of nonfiction Florida Keys: A History and Guide (1986). She has also written travel articles for Esquire magazine, including “How to Do and Undo Key West” (February, 1996), “Nantucket Now” (September, 1996), “Desert Flower” (January, 1997), “No Place Like Home” (March, 1997).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Joy Williams has established herself as one of the preeminent practitioners of the short-story form in the United States. Along with Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and a handful of other writers, she has perfected a style and content which accurately render life in late twentieth century America. It is not a pretty picture she paints: In Williams’s stories, characters cannot communicate, couples cannot connect, and children are being abandoned or reared by others.

Williams has been the recipient of numerous awards in her career, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1974. Her stories regularly appear in the leading U.S. literary journalsEsquire, The New Yorker, Grand Street—and many have been collected in the annual The Best American Short Stories or Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards collections and in other prime anthologies of contemporary American fiction.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Cooper, Rand Richards. “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel.” The New York Times, January 21, 1990. In this detailed review of Escapes, Cooper focuses on the quirky, ominous world they create; discusses several stories, arguing that “The Blue Men” and the title story are the strongest.

Fox, Linda A. “Excellent Guide Unlocks the Mysteries of the Keys.” The Toronto Sun, January 14, 1998, p. 55. A discussion of Williams’s travel guide, The Florida Keys: A History and a Guide; notes that Williams’s book is full of useful information about wildlife, sea life, and local folklore.

Heller, Zoe. “Amazing Moments from the Production Line.” The Independent, July 21, 1990, p. 28. In this review of Escapes, Heller complains that Williams’s style has become a mannerism, but singles out “In the Route” as a story that is more interesting than the other formulaic pieces in the collection.

Hills, Rust. Review of State of Grace. Esquire 80 (July, 1973): 26, 28. Hills recognizes that Williams has a problem with structure but praises her language: “ open the novel to virtually any page and you’ll instantly see it—a kind of strange phosphorescent style describing disquieting, dark and funny goings-on. Sentences are brilliant, gorgeous, surprising. ”


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