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The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  882 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
The legendary writer’s first collection in more than ten years—and, finally, the definitive one. A literary event of the highest order.

Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. And at long last the incredible scope o
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Knopf
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Paul Kitcatt It's for grown-ups - not that the content is especially sexual, but the themes are not likely to be understood without a little experience of life. I…moreIt's for grown-ups - not that the content is especially sexual, but the themes are not likely to be understood without a little experience of life. I haven't read all the stories yet, mind, so it may be that some are more explicit.(less)

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Dec 12, 2015 added it
Recommended to Fionnuala by: Tony's review
In the very first story in this book, there’s an abandoned dog, delivered along with an abandoned baby into the care of a tired grandfather who is already caring for his ailing wife. That remarkable story sets the tone for the entire collection - I've never read so many powerful stories about the lost, the sick, the exhausted, the forgotten, the miserable, the dying - and that’s just the dogs.

Dogs feature in almost all of the forty-something stories, and since the collection is dedicated to Rust
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are thirteen 'new' stories in this collection, along with 33 others culled from previous books. As I had never read any Joy Williams until now, all 46 stories were 'new' to me. I read each one; not in order, of course. And they were spectacular.

The stories are minimalist, mostly, so easy to inhale. They are set in Maine, in Arizona, in Florida a lot, and in unnamed pockets of America, where photographs fade, drywall rots, and floral dresses bear the stains of yesterday. The weather informs
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who are allergic to the vapid
Recommended to ·Karen· by: Tony
"We are here to prepare for not being here."
(The Country.)

Can we incorporate and treasure and be nourished by that which we do not understand? Of course. Understanding something, especially in these tech times, seems to involve ruthless appropriation and dismantlement and diminishment.
Joy Williams in The Paris Review

The Bible is constantly making use of image beyond words. A parable provides the imagery by means of words. The meaning, however, does not lie in the words but in the imagery. What
Vincent Scarpa
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Pulitzer in 2016, or I self-immolate.
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My pre-ordered copy just arrived. Notwithstanding how wonderful the stories are, the book itself is a lovely thing - nice thick paper with those rough edges, and the dust jacket has a great rough texture to it.

13 of the stories are new to me, and I plan to read them slowly as a treat in between my other books. The rest are probably due a re-read but, seeing she is the best living short story writer, I can give this five stars simple on principle.

If you have not read her yet, this is a great pl
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Joy Williams appears to be one of the most accomplished short story writers I never heard of. The comparisons to giants such as Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Alice Munroe and Tobias Wolff really peaked my interest and I was not disappointed.

There are many stories here – four dozen, to be precise – and I am savoring them. These little gems are not meant to be devoured one after the other, but I’ve read at least half of them and will continue to read consistently over the weeks ahead.

For tho
Book Riot Community
There is a good chance you don't know this, but Joy Williams is a genius. I myself was not aware of this until a couple years ago, when she was recommended to me by Paul Lisicky (PS - He's wonderful, Google him.). Williams is a writer's writer, which I think means "brilliant and under the radar." In this new collection of stories, you can glimpse her brilliance in forty-six (!!!) stories, both old and new. Her writing is elegant and dark, fantastical and sharp. She's soooo good. Think Alice Munr ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
it's come - just in time for Christmas, A present to myself.. and one that looks great.
I tried very hard to slow down reading this book because it is so wonderful. I managed 6 months. Now I'll start again. Truly exceptional.
Lyn Caglio
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
No one writes short stories better, except for Alice Munro. Williams is the master and crazy good! 13 new stories in this volume as well as a collection of great old favorites. You simply can't go wrong here.
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Though I haven't read it, I have to imagine September's big cover story in the NYT Magazine section has to do with how Joy Williams went from being perhaps THE great, unappreciated American author of the last thirty years to this ruminative, death-obsessed drunk who has pushed the boundaries of her signature style past any point of necessity. Five stars for the selections from her past collections, zero for everything new (Maybe three for the story about the desert tortoise sanctuary, but it's n ...more
Jenna Evans
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I want to use the phrase "towering talent," despite it being both a cliche and rather phallocentric. These stories are...devastating. Obliterating. Freaking genius. DAMN.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
In a weird distinction, I thought the stories in this collection were really well done, but didn't enjoy the experience of reading it. I think because it was a library book, and I felt a certain pressure to soldier through it, when I would have really liked to read one or two at a time and put the book down for a bit to absorb them. Each one was so dense and unsettling–like eating a flourless chocolate cake, but more depressing.

Still, glad I read it, and thinking maybe I'll revisit some of the
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Realistically I may never finish this book, but I'm going to give it five stars because every story in here makes me want to be more thoughtful, more observant, smarter and better, so I can be more like Joy Williams. Also every story has a dog, it's fantastic. Joy Williams is so cool it kills me.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This collection is massive but there's so little filler. My dislike of short stories is overridden by Williams' careful construction of off-kilter lives distorted by a disquieting undercurrent.
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I skipped the collected stories section because I'd read many of them before. Those are great, but the new stories are 'oh shit' level good. A perfect marriage of simplicity, pathos, and elegance.
Sean Carman
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to take Mavis Gallant's general advice for reading short story collections and read these stories slowly, with breaks in between, first because it seems like the best way to enjoy a collection of stories, and second because the stories in this collection are so good I don't want them to end.

How did I not read anything by Joy Williams before this? What a terrible mistake. Compounded by the fact that I don't have any excuses. So many writers I admire have said, in interviews and sometim
Leland William
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I discovered Joy Williams three months ago while listening to the New Yorker Fiction podcast. Her story was read by Colin Barrett, and I immediately fell in love with her brainy, uncomfortable weirdo fiction. Fast forward to now - after having read a comprehensive selection of her stories - I'm not sure what to feel, maybe relief?

Joy Williams writes funny, abstract and very sad fiction. There are no resolutions in her stories, just a singular, whirling black hole at the center of the universe th
Benjamin Bryan
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Madera
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is my second reading of The Visiting Privilege, an extraordinary collection of fictions, its lapidary prose, full of unique phrasings, perfect words perfectly placed, often astonishing, always inspiring. Williams masterfully exposes and indicts these disunited States, the meanness and pettiness of many of its inhabitants, their absurd dreams, their knowing duplicities, their utter sociopathy, their ill-conceived self-medication, often in the form of alcohol abuse. These dark narratives para ...more
Sara Batkie
Spent the entire year reading a handful of stories in between novels and finally finished yesterday. Our world looks a lot different from when I started, a bit scarier, a bit more apocalyptic even. Luckily Joy Williams was already prepared. She's beloved and revered by other writers and going through this collection I can see why. Her work has a remoteness to it, an emotional inaccessibility that feels unique, if not always enjoyable to experience. Often there's little plot momentum, just some b ...more
Becky De Oliveira
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys great short fiction.
Recommended to Becky by: Deb Olin Unferth
Shelves: 2016
It took me a longer than normal time to read this book, primarily because I kept stopping and insisting that my husband or son listen to me read a single sentence aloud. The writing is simply perfect. Just the right details, as in,"She kisses the girl and she kisses the man and goes into the nursery carrying her lunch in a Wonder Bread bag." Or,"On the wall over the counter were pictures of sandwiches." There are beautifully poignant sentences containing profound observations: "Of course it was ...more
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have loved reading Joy Williams’ recent collection of stories, THE VISITING PRIVILEGE. It contains some old stories and some newer ones, and I have delighted in almost all of them. She has a way of bringing the reader into worlds that are just a little off; to read about them is vaguely destabilizing. Many of her characters are living marginal lives, struggling to survive, often drinking too much. Williams captures their world views in sentences that seem to descend suddenly to startle. “Looki ...more
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“There was the trap and the pinch of food on the chipped china saucer. Never too much, not that it seemed wasteful, it just wasn’t right. And the saucer—it had to be a chipped one. A perfect saucer would have conferred something else entirely. She had mean no real harm. What if everything one did mattered. Thank God, it could not.” (“Cats and Dogs”)

Marvelously strange, gorgeously written. I am smitten with Joy Williams. This is a dense and delightful collection of her stories, old and new, and i
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it
It is telling my favorite story was the morbidly weird "Congress", where the smell of death hangs over characters intoxicated with taxidermy, anthropology, and hunting. I liked a handful of the sixty stories (the grace of "Taking Care", the tenderness of "The Wedding", the threat of "Brass"), but most of the stories failed to affect me. I kept reading for the writerly sentences and observations that MFA programs seem to propagate. Williams writes slice-of-life stories drunk on dysfunctional dinn ...more
Bonnye Reed
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: keepers
Yeah! I won this book in a goodreads giveaway - I love Joy Williams! I cannot wait until it gets here.... And it got here very quickly - August 10! I am at the moment 4 books behind on my Goodreads reviews, but I am slipping in short stories evening and morning as a special treat to me....

I have favorites of the new stories of course - Brass - There is an almost invisible line between 'special' and 'psychotic'. I'm not sure I would recognize it, either.... and The Girls - Assures us old fogies
Joan Colby
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Williams is an original talent, one of our foremost short story writers. Many of the stories in this collection are weirdly fascinating and hallucinatory. One that particularly caught my attention include Preparation For a Collie, The Wedding, The Yard Boy, Pammy, Health, White, The Last Generation, Maribout, Brass and Another season. Assuming the stories are arranged chronologically, Williams moves from magical realism in the earliest to realistic oddity in the later ones. Most of the stories i ...more
Laura  Yan
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Joy Williams may just be my favorite short story writer. I got in the habit of reading a story or two while eating pho over the last few months- I'll miss it. I like her earlier (I think?) stories best: they are strange and startling and leave you with a sense of something big that you can't quite comprehend. Sometimes I wanted to reread a story as soon as I finished it-which happens so rarely. Oh, and the writing!!! Her marvelous use of unlikely adverbs and adjectives and those killer little ex ...more
Lee Monks
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-top-reads, top-25
Both this and the Lucia Berlin collection are absolutely indispensable for those who love short fiction, and those who want to but don't quite. Or, yeah, for those who think short fiction is a bit 'meh' and uninvolving and bagatellish. One thing this book isn't is 'meh'.
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
My complete review of Lucia Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women: Any of these individual stories might have been a four or five star story but when consumed as a whole the experience of reading this collection was torturous.

My review of The Visiting Privilege: ditto.
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Just not entirely my cup of tea. I can respect the artistry, and some of the stories reached out to me, but the majority didn't resonate.

Stand-outs: "The Excursion"; "Health"; "The Last Generation"; "Charity"; "Anodyne"
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  • There's Something I Want You to Do
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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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“He wants to apologize but does not know for what. His life has been devoted to apologetics. It is his profession. He is concerned with both justification and remorse. He has always acted rightly, but nothing has ever come of it.” 2 likes
“Sam and Elizabeth met as people usually meet. Suddenly, there was a deceptive light in the darkness. A light that blackly reminded the lonely of the darkness.” 0 likes
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