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99 Stories of God

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,362 Ratings  ·  293 Reviews
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Joy Williams has a one-of-a-kind gift for capturing both the absurdity and the darkness of everyday life. In Ninety-Nine Stories of God, she takes on one of mankind’s most confounding preoccupations: the Supreme Being.

This series of short, fictional vignettes explores our day-to-day interactions with an ever-elusive and arbit
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Kindle Edition, 131 pages
Published April 22nd 2013 by Byliner Inc.
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Perry
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey--Redux
[updated 10/21/17] *3.6 stars

The 99 sketches in this book reminded me of the old Saturday Night Live "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey," two perfect examples being,
If you get invited to your first orgy, don't just show up nude. That's a common mistake. You have to let nudity 'happen.'

If you ever discover that what you're seeing is a play within a play, just slow down, take a deep breath and hold on for the ride of your life.
Most though are a little longer (none
...more
Kevin Kelsey
I'm not above saying that I didn't get about 70% of the stories in this collection.

STORIES SIX AND SEVEN WERE SUBLIME
Ellie
I thought that Joy Williams collection of short stories, 99 Stories of God might be a sort of collection of fictional devotions. And I suppose they might be, if one expanded the definition of "devotion" beyond recognition!

The stories are very short, somewhat like those of Lydia Davis; most of them are one or two pages and but many are even shorter-a paragraph or a few lines.

But how wonderful they are! God figures in them but often obliquely. Sometimes He seems to be irrelevant to the lives of
...more
Sue
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have intended to read Joy Williams for some time and now, thanks to Tin House Books and NetGalley I've had a great introduction. These are most definitely not traditional stories of God's intercession with man as read in religious works. These are everyday experiences that reveal the human and seem to border on something other. At times, The Lord shows up personally to check in on humans, but not in a majestic way, more in a personal, often perplexed way given how humankind seems to be dealing ...more
Canadian Reader
Nov 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
If you or I wrote these stories and submitted them to a publisher, they'd be rejected. Bizarre and nonsensical, even the brevity of the pieces doesn't save them from tediousness. They may provide your eyes with some exercise . . .in eyeball-rolling at the author's pretentious "cleverness." Obviously not my cup of tea.
Melody
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I didn't find these minute stories to be intriguing or funny, just rather odd and tiresome. They read as random thoughts that made the author feel clever. Each one is like a movie that ends in exactly the wrong spot and makes you regret watching it in the first place. Obviously well appreciated by others, but quite unappealing to me.
Karen
Jun 18, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gosh, I can't remember the last time I gave a book one star. I found the stories weird and puzzling. Many of these short fictional stories I felt had no connection to God.

Thanks to Tin House Books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Corey Landon Wozniak
[UPDATED REVIEW: 23 JULY '16]

Many reviewers here on GR have mentioned that the "stories" in this book might better be called zen koans. I checked my copy of Alan Watts' The Way of Zen to see if this description is apt. (It is.) Watts says the koan is a type of puzzle, the answer to which must be intuitively and spontaneously grasped. Some examples:

Question : Everybody has a place of birth. Where is your place of birth?
Answer : Early this morning I ate white rice gruel. Now I’m hungry agai
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Joachim Stoop
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Great concept, huge imagination and variety! But...

Most of these stories just weren't strong, funny, crazy, interesting enough.

* 32 stories were absurd in a silly way:

F.e.: The Lord wants to give a dinner party but can never come up with twelve guests. Whatever steward He has at the time suggests many names, but the Lord can’t get excited about any of them. At least the menu was determined long ago. There would be a mixture of fifty pure chemicals—sugar, amino and fatty acids, vitamins and miner
...more
B. Rule
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I guess "46 Thoughts Joy Williams Had Before Bed, 35 Items of Color Commentary by Your Aunt on Science Stories, OJ Simpson, and Other Assorted News Items, and 18 Short Stories" didn't fit as well on the cover page. Each of the titular 99 pieces in this book is at most a couple pages long, and most are far shorter than that. For all of her plaudits, I found this slender volume by Williams to be frustratingly padded out. Several of the so-called stories are little more than a sentence that she pre ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I would say it is difficult to form an opinion on an author just from super short fiction, and this book of 99 stories is a collection of flash pieces - some are as small as a sentence fragment, while others are a page or two. Some of them have characters facing their mortality (where God surely is) and others have God wandering through the randomness of life trying to make sense of it all. There were several clever laughable moments but really I need to read her longer short stories before I ha ...more
Rebecca Renner
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! It's a bunch of vignettes, some irreverent, some poetic, others peculiar. Still, they make a cohesive whole. It's an easy ready, and it's something different. I highly recommend this book.
Lauren Davis
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's nothing I want to say about this small, intricate, deceptively simple book that hasn't already been said by Justin Taylor in his excellent NYT review, so allow me just to give you the link... https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/bo...

Enjoy. Ponder. Reflect. Laugh. Despair. Wonder. It's all there.
Steve Daykin
Some of these ultra short short stories piqued my curiosity. Most left me baffled.
Lou Last

95
 
The American philosopher William James posited that overbelief was essential to a lived life, and that only when we open ourselves to God’s influence are our deepest destinies fulfilled. God provided William with many things, including (according to his sister Alice) the ability to be “born fresh every morning.” He also gave him a brother, Henry, who He determined would be “younger and shallower and vainer.” William quite agreed with this assessment.

96
 
When a woman sits down to a meal alone,
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Alan
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
It seems wrong to give Williams 3 stars because she is a great writer and I loved 'The Visiting Privilege', a truly wonderful book, but this, while at times intriguing, funny and wise, contains scraps from the table really. Not enough nutrition.
Nate D
Economically incisive dispatches on the affair of humans, animals, and deities.
Steven
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If your spiritual life leans into intellectualism, if it's energized by parsing the difference between seeing people's motivations as particular instead of peculiar, this book is for you. Ms. Williams spends these ninety-nine stories wrestling with her conscience's observations of the world and how they form and reform her idea of faith. She comes to no conclusions, but multiple readings of each of these psalm-like parables reveal many ideas about humanity. She posits that the spirit is nothing ...more
Patricia
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
After reading Joy Williams story in the Sept 14, 2014 issue of the New Yorker while traveling to Mexico, I remembered I had this book on my Kindle. Coincidentally, I was listening to "God and Mr. Gomez" and I'd just finished Thomas Moore's "A Religion of One's Own." God was coming at me in my reading and as it turned out God was everywhere during this trip. Williams 99 mostly very short pieces definitely alerted me to God's presence for she offered "the Lord" in a myriad of connotations, incarna ...more
Mary E
Jul 14, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read this collection, but the hype was unfounded. I haven't read such nonsensical dribble in a very long time. I suspect that I was supposed to be deeply moved by the author's artistic take on who God might be, but it just didn't happen for me. The stories (some mere sentences, really) left me confused and longing to return to the real world.
Vincent Scarpa
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Such a fantastic piece of work from Joy Williams, who is incomparable in every way. Impossible not to read in one sitting. What an examination. What a brilliant mind.
Antonia
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God consists of 99 microfictions that read like koans or parables, not quite stories, but okay, we’ll call them stories here. They often feature the appearance of well-known figures from history or literature, e.g., Kafka, Tolstoy, James Agee, O. J. Simpson, Jakob Boehme, William James. And very often, God. They are very short, from a single sentence to a page or two, prompting one to read quickly, gobbling down one morsel after another, but they probably deserve mor ...more
Abby
The brilliant, incandescent, strange, and illuminating Joy Williams tries her hand at microfiction, and the results are perfectly odd and wonderfully thought-provoking. (If you like Lydia Davis, you’ll love this collection, which can be read in a few hours.) It is almost not fiction; it is so close to prose poetry that these tiny stories demand several readings. Two favorites:

14.
A newborn baby abandoned in the Kenyan capital was saved by a stray dog who apparently carried her across a busy road
...more
J. Bradley
Aug 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is I would use as an example of how not to write good flash fiction. Most of the stories involved upper class situations and values, things that publishers love to publish, things that make my eyes roll so far back, I can see my eyebrows. I'm sorry that I read this book and would warn others to not make the same mistake I made.
Aline Ohanesian
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant collection of micro fiction. It's a book I know I'll come back to again and again. I'm fascinated by how much she can accomplish in a story consisting of only a handful of sentences.
Adam Dalva
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Hypnotic, intelligent, lovely book of (loosely) linked flash fiction - Williams is such a great writer and many of the vignettes stand out as masterpieces of the short short form (I particularly like 25: "Veracity"). I'll be recommending this book for a long time. I did have slightly less affection for some of the stories in which God APPEARS instead of simply exists in the background - those lean a bit too hard on their punchlines and speak to befuddlement instead of the calm slant observation ...more
Robert Vaughan
Such an abstract, yet simple/complex gem of a book. From the construct to the order, through the content, this collection of compressed fiction truly dazzles. Recommended by my dear poet friend Pamela Davis, this book does not disappoint. At times puzzling, and abstract, yet also frail, common in its dailiness, the book works on its reader in surprising ways. Award winning author, Williams' writing is anything but meaningless. And in this spare book, again, she demonstrates how with so few words ...more
Tobinsfavorite
I kind of want to give a 4th star here for alluring prose.

I did like this book. I think a lot of people would, more than might think of reading it, but maybe I overestimate the capacity for many to enjoy well-written, disjointed vignettes.

There certainly were pages where I could not discern the divinity the author meant to convey, but then again, there were passages that made me ponder, at least in passing, or nod with appreciative understanding, or laugh with wry yet gentle humor.

I did like thi
...more
Jim Coughenour
99 nightmares, some so short they're over in a sentence so you don't have to dream them. God is mocked along with everyone else including animals and philosophers. Williams toys with our ravenous love of story, tossing out one poisoned tidbit after another. Some fall flat, some strive too hard, some are laugh-out-loud brilliant. The cover image by Michael Sowa is a perfect pairing and the designer (Diane Chonette) deserves a prize.

FUNNY BUT MEAN
Nan
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love everything about this book, from contents to cover. Tin House did a great job on producing the collection. Joy Williams did an astounding job on writing it. Held together by the thin invisible line which is the divine, these spare stories tweak perception, twist the real dial into the surreal. I love the titles at the end of each piece. They're like a bowl capturing each strange flake, raindrop, thought. This is my first Williams collection. I'll have to read more.
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Around the Year i...: Ninety-Nine Stories of God, by Joy Williams 1 11 Jun 13, 2017 12:58PM  
Why no paper version? 1 9 Jun 01, 2013 05:45PM  
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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 was Taking Care, published in 1982. A second collection, Escapes, followed in 1990. A 2001 essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and ...more
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“We can never speak about God rationally as we speak about ordinary things, but that does not mean we should give up thinking about God. We must push our minds to the limits of what we could know, descending ever deeper into the darkness of unknowing.” 5 likes
“The Lord was living with a great colony of bats in a cave. Two boys with BB guns found the cave and killed many of the bats outright, leaving many more to die of their injuries. The boys didn’t see the Lord. He didn’t make His presence known to them. On the other hand, the Lord was very fond of the bats but had done nothing to save them. He was becoming harder and harder to comprehend. He liked to hang with the animals, everyone knew that, the whales and bears, the elephants and bighorn sheep and wolves. They were rather wishing He wasn’t so partial to their company. Hang more in the world of men, they begged Him. But the Lord said He was lonely there.” 2 likes
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