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99 Stories of God

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,764 ratings  ·  363 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
Kindle Edition, 131 pages
Published April 22nd 2013 by Byliner Inc.
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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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 (no
Adam Dalva
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Hypnotic, intelligent, lovely book of (loosely) linked flash fiction - Williams is 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 that ...more
Kevin Kelsey
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
I'm not above saying that I didn't get about 70% of the stories in this collection.

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
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
Shelves: american
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.
Corey Wozniak

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
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
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 R
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.
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
This book was sent to me years ago as part of a subscription box, and I immediately put it in a pile to donate. A book about God? Not for me.

But when I found that pile again, while cleaning out a closet, I started flipping through this and realized it wasn't what I'd thought. It's not preachy or moralizing or trite. It makes no particular religious claims. These stories are short and inscrutable and charming and odd, and I was quickly sucked in.

It's often difficult to pinpoint which character or
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...

Enjoy. Ponder. Reflect. Laugh. Despair. Wonder. It's all there.
Lou Last
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories

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.

When a woman sits down to a meal alone,
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.
Jane Glossil
Ninety-nine stories that are not all about God. What we have is a surprise box of anecdotes, news, allusions, satire, precepts, retellings, and stories with The Lord as a modern-day present and random figure. Some are direct and are easy to comprehend. Most require more time and attention to get to the point, but still, not quite yet. Overall, I think this collection is meant to be a dazzling puzzle, a curious collection that is open to interpretation for all.
Nate D
Economically incisive dispatches on the affair of humans, animals, and deities.
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
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.
Mary E
Jul 14, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Really disappointed after all the literary hype. I thought it was a lot of drivel.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015, kindle
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
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:

A newborn baby abandoned in the Kenyan capital was saved by a stray dog who apparently carried her across a busy road
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather than "short stories", I'd call this collection "micro-stories"-- and as the title suggests, Joy Williams writes 99 separate vignettes in which she portrays encounters with the Divine, in literal (my favorite ones were where "The Lord" was a main character) and not so literal ways. I thought this collection was creative and captivating. As an audiobook presentation, each story was able to vividly come to life in 1-2 minutes, and then it was on to the next. I recommend if you're in a readin ...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.
Clark Knowles
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What in the world is Joy Williams up to? Spiritual vignettes composed by the Riddler after he’d left his life of crime and studied biology at a Buddhist monastery run by turtles. It’s the sound of god clapping with one hand while waiting for a shingles vaccination.
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.
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
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
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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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