Joy Williams (American writer)

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Joy Williams
Born (1944-02-11) February 11, 1944 (age 75)
Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Occupation novelist, short story writer, essayist
Period1973 – present
Genre Literary fiction

Joy Williams (born February 11, 1944) is an American novelist, short-story writer, and essayist.



Williams is the author of four novels. Her first, State of Grace (1973), was nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Quick and the Dead (2000), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her first collection of short stories, Taking Care, was published in 1982. A second collection, Escapes, followed in 1990. A 2001 essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Honored Guest, a collection of short stories, was published in 2004. A 30th anniversary reprint of The Changeling was issued in 2008 with an introduction by the American novelist Rick Moody. [1] The book was also republished in 2018 to celebrate 40 years from its original publication. [2]

Novel narrative text, normally of a substantial length and in the form of prose describing a fictional and sequential story

A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, normally written in prose form, and which is typically published as a book.

The National Book Awards are a set of annual U.S. literary awards. At the final National Book Awards Ceremony every November, the National Book Foundation presents the National Book Awards and two lifetime achievement awards to authors.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction award

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It recognizes distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, published during the preceding calendar year. As the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, it was one of the original Pulitzers; the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year.

Her stories and essays are frequently anthologized, and she has received many awards and honors, including the Harold and Mildred Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Rea Award for the Short Story. In 2008, she was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In book publishing, an anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts by different authors. In genre fiction, anthology is used to categorize collections of shorter works such as short stories and short novels, by different authors, each featuring unrelated casts of characters and settings, and usually collected into a single volume for publication.

American Academy of Arts and Letters honor society

The American Academy of Arts and Letters is a 250-member honor society; its goal is to "foster, assist, and sustain excellence" in American literature, music, and art. Located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, it shares Audubon Terrace, a complex on Broadway between West 155th and 156th Streets, with the Hispanic Society of America and Boricua College.

The Rea Award for the Short Story is an annual award given to a living American or Canadian author chosen for unusually significant contributions to short story fiction.

Williams was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. [3] She received a BA from Marietta College and a MFA from the University of Iowa. She has taught creative writing at the University of Houston, the University of Florida, the University of Iowa, and the University of Arizona. [4] For the 2008-2009 academic year, Williams was the writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming, and continued thereafter as an affiliated faculty member of the English department. She lives in Key West, Florida, and Tucson, Arizona. Williams was married for 34 years to L. Rust Hills, [5] fiction editor for Esquire , until his death on August 12, 2008. [6]

Chelmsford, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Chelmsford is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts in the United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town's population was 33,802. Only 48.4% are male and the median age of residents in Chelmsford is 39.2 years old. It is located 24 miles (39 km) northwest of Boston and, bordering on the city of Lowell, is part of the Greater Lowell metropolitan area. Besides Lowell on its northeast, Chelmsford is surrounded by four towns: Tyngsborough to the north, Billerica to the southeast, Carlisle to the south, and Westford to the west. Chelmsford is bordered by two sizable rivers: the Merrimack River to the north, and the Concord River to the east.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

Marietta College private liberal arts college in Ohio

Marietta College is a private liberal arts college in Marietta, Ohio. The college offers 45 majors. The school encompasses approximately three city blocks next to downtown Marietta and enrolls 1,200 full-time students.


Williams's fiction often portrays life as a downward spiral, addressing various forms of failure in America, from spiritual, ecological, and economic perspectives. Her characters, generally from the middle class, frequently fall from it, at times in bizarre fashion, in a form of cultural dispossession. [7] Williams's adult characters are usually divorced, her children are abandoned, and their lives are consumed with fear, often irrational, such as the little girl in the story "The Excursion," who is terrified that birds will fly out of her toilet bowl. [8] The critic Rosellen Brown characterizes the figures in Williams's work as seeming to be "born spiritually on the lam, living their clammy lives in a watery, vegetation-laden, untended-feeling place ... in ineffective shade." [9] Critics have also noted her work as having elements of both minimalism and the Gothic. [10]

The middle class is a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. The very definition of the term "middle class" is highly political and vigorously contested by various schools of political and economic philosophy. Modern social theorists - and especially economists - have defined and re-defined the term "middle class" in order to serve their particular political ends. The definitions of the term "middle class" therefore are the result of the more- or less-scientific methods used when delineating the parameters of what is and isn't "middle class".

Minimalism movements in various forms of art and design

In visual arts, music, and other mediums, minimalism is an art movement that began in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. Prominent artists associated with minimalism include Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella. It derives from the reductive aspects of modernism and is often interpreted as a reaction against abstract expressionism and a bridge to postminimal art practices.

Goth subculture Contemporary subculture

The goth subculture is a subculture that began in England during the early 1980s, where it developed from the audience of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The name, goth subculture, derived directly from the music genre. Notable post-punk groups that presaged that genre and helped develop and shape the subculture, include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Cure. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify and spread throughout the world. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from 19th-century Gothic literature and gothic horror films. The scene is centered on music festivals, nightclubs and organized meetings, especially in Western Europe.

In an introductory note in 1995's edition of Best American Short Stories, Williams wrote: "All art is about nothingness: our apprehension of it, our fear of it, its approach." [11]

Williams is especially noted for her writing on the environment. In addition to her work Ill Nature, she is the author of a guidebook on the Florida Keys, which Conde Nast described as "one of the best guidebooks ever written" and "a magnificent, tragicomic guide." [12]

Florida Keys coral cay archipelago in Florida, United States of America

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern part of Key West is just 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 23.5 and 25.5 degrees North latitude.

Published work


Story collections



  1. Fairy Tale Review Press (September 13, 2007) Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. "The Best Reviewed Books of the Week - 4-27-2018". Literary Hub. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  3. Garrison Keillor (February 2006). "The Writer's Almanac: Saturday, 11 February 2006". The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media. Retrieved 2007-04-12.
  4. "Joy Williams, Winner 1999". n.d. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  5. McClellan, Dennis (August 16, 2008). "L. Rust Hills, 1924-2008: Longtime fiction editor at Esquire". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  6. Schudel, Matt (August 17, 2008). "L. Rust Hills, 83; Edited Renowned Fiction Writers for Esquire". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  7. Thompson, "Carolyn Chute and Joy Williams" (1992), 209, 218.
  8. Gelfant, Columbia Companion (2001), 574.
  9. Brown, Rosellen (1 January 1999). "Rosellen Brown Discovers Joy Williams". The Women's Review of Books. 16 (10/11): 33. doi:10.2307/4023248. JSTOR   4023248.
  10. Szalay, Edina (1 January 1998). "BREAKING INTO THE HOUSE OF DEATH AND LOVE : THE GOTHIC AS SUBTEXT IN A MINIMALIST NOVEL (JOY WILLIAMS' "BREAKING & ENTERING")". Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS). 4 (1/2): 285–298. JSTOR   41274011.
  11. Brown, Rosellen (1 January 1999). "Rosellen Brown Discovers Joy Williams". The Women's Review of Books. 16 (10/11): 33. doi:10.2307/4023248. JSTOR   4023248.
  12. Williams, Joy (2003-09-15). The Florida Keys: A History and Guide. ISBN   978-0812968422.

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