A friend and I were preparing deviled eggs for a Superbowl party when I insisted on enhancing our deviled egg production with a few choice sentences from Diane Williams’ new story collection, Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty. How could I not—with the enthusiasm gathering in us of crushed yolks, globs of mayo, secret relish—pull my friend over to take a look at these sentences, these other small, new bursts of pleasure?
When I talk about Diane Williams, author of seven excellent short story collections and founding editor of the literary annual NOON, I tend to talk about her sentences more than I talk about her stories. Her sentences contain an awful lot, and when put together into a whole story, the entirety gives me too much to say in one sitting. Too much to say, and a fear of ruining the pleasurable effect the story’s just had by putting too many other words around it.
The other main thing as to why I talk about her sentences, is that her sentences are brilliant. Her sentences can be plucked from their stories and stand alone devastating people.
So, in order to say a little, but not too much, and as an excuse to publish a list of some of my very favorite sentences from Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, I’d like to suggest a few methods by which pleasure can come about. First, the sentences:
“Another one of my boyfriends said helpfully there is a great difference between love, hatred, and desire, but nothing compels us to maintain these differences.”
From "Mood Which Gripped Me"
“The mother experiences her losses with positivity. She even frames the notion of her own charm as she heads into her normal amount of it.”
From "Chicken Winchell"
“Her fate was being rigged for the rough surface.”
From "Mrs. Keable’s Brothers"
“The suspense in that moment had drawn me in and I was fascinated to hear my answer to her that was delivered in a weepy form.”
From "Arm Under the Soil"
“I seriously did not think I was in the state I describe as reserved for me.”
From "Expectant Motherhood"
My friend, who was helping with the deviled eggs, and who is well on her way to becoming a doctor, confessed to feelings of inadequacy with regard to talking about very smart literary fiction. I say put the fear aside. The point of reading is not always to then get a hold of something, as if the story is some riddle. Allow for the simple, intense pleasure in the sound of the words. Let the sentence make you think in a way you had not before, with a logic to the syntax that is surprising and fresh, somehow both very true at the same time that it is utterly unfamiliar. Permit yourself to remain in a state of uncertainty and wonder.