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Honored Guest

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  757 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
With her singular brand of gorgeous dark humor, Joy Williams explores the various ways–comic, tragic, and unnerving—we seek to accommodate diminishment and loss. A masseuse breaks her rich client's wrist bone, a friend visits at the hospital long after she is welcome, and a woman surrenders her husband to a creepily adoring student. From one of our most acclaimed writers, ...more
Paperback, 213 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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"But your life’s center is on the periphery."
In the grand scheme of things, little things sometimes fail to become an indispensable part of the complete picture and inadvertently choose a different path for themselves. They walk alone, live through the day and quietly go to sleep without holding any promise of opening their eyes the next day. For me, short stories are made out of such ephemeral yet strong happenings. I approach them with almost zero expectations and whatever I receive in excha
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: my only friend
Recommended to Mariel by: the empty dog food and drink bowls
Shelves: my-love-life
I'm not a particularly nice person, Dennis. I've had to admit that to myself, and I'll admit it to you as well. I might have been nice once but I get by the best I can now. I don't even know how you'd look at someone, at anything, with your whole heart. Why, you'd wear yourself out. You'd become nothing but a cinder. Life would become intolerable in no time. Now, it sounds as though you had a very fortunate childhood until you didn't. It's what I always think when I see cows grazing in the field ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Joy Williams is just genius. I want to plagiarize it all. The elliptical “plots”(or parody of plots), the savage humor, surreal dialogue, the palpable threat in nearly every line, absurd situations, her unsettling and painfully convincing vision of life, and her handling of death, anxiety, sickness, and ecology and our place in the natural world. If you are fan of Jane Bowles and the films of David Lynch you must read Williams.
Rebecca McNutt
These dark yet beautiful stories are often morbid, but at the same time evocative and emotional and definitely worth it. I loved all of them, each one has its own originality and creativity.
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Josh by: Jonathan
Shelves: 2015
(3.5) Joy is not the first thing you think of when you read one of Joy Williams’s short stories, but it’s not quite the opposite. Neither joyful or morbid, the stories in this volume are mostly about circumstances in life; each wave of nausea coming in, the torrent of neurasthenia and a melancholic nuisance the mind provides; how our emotions provide comfort against our fears, but also have the tendency to implode on themselves when we need that barrier, that wall of safety at the most opportune ...more
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A selection of things Joy Williams' characters say/do:

"I wasn't brought up that way."

"What were you born with, an ax in your hand? You're so destructive."

She pretended she was a virus, wandering without aim through someone's body.

"I began to wonder if it was worthwhile to undertake what I was doing at the moment. Pick a moment, any moment. I began to wonder. If I only had today and not tomorrow, would it be worthwhile to undertake what I was doing at the moment? I addressed myself to that very
Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it
I wonder why I don't give this more stars. It's absolutely gorgeous writing, with a great sense of weirdness and detail and dialogue. Cameron Pierce lent me this specifically so I could read "Congress," the story about the deer-foot lamp -- and I loved it!

I guess I hoped the rest of the book would be equally surreal and unhinged, but instead the rest of the stories have convinced me that the weirdness of "Congress" is more a depiction of the heroine's mental illness than a step into impossible
karısını terk eden adamlar, kocasını benzincide kaybeden kadınlar, annesinden nefret eden kızlar, yalnızlıktan her allahın günü hastane ziyaretine gidenler, ölmüş oğlunun arkadaşlarını eve toplayıp parti veren anneler...
o bildik amerikan rüyasını tersyüz ediyor joy williams. carver ve cheever ayarında bir öykücü.
favorim kitaba adını veren öykü.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wildly original and disturbing tales of social disconnection and psychic dislocation.
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"She had been having a rough time of it and thought about suicide sometimes, but suicide was so corny and you had to be careful in this milieu which was eleventh grade because two of her classmates had committed suicide the year before and between them left twenty-four suicide notes and had become just a joke. They had left the notes everywhere and they were full of misspellings and pretensions. Theirs had been a false show. Then this year a girl had taken an overdose of Tylenol which of course ...more
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
The title story, about a teenage girl whose mother is dying, is fantastic. The "five stages of grief" turn into five hundred, the abyss yawns and waits behind every aggressively empty line that the mom utters. The atmosphere crackles with danger.

Four stars for that story alone.

The rest of the stories: meh. The loopy, dangerously-giddy, we-are-alone-in-a-universe-of-entropy-and-minor-madness tone gets old as more and more quirky characters parade before us and have random, often violent stuff hap
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Littered with dogs and perfumed with death, this is a collection of short stories like no other. Sometimes surreal, sometimes perplexing, never predictable. This is my first taste of Joy and I can't wait for more.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Good, weird stories that don't feel the need to show growth, significance and epiphany in every detail. I want a deer-foot lamp that likes to read Moby-Dick.
My sister built up Joy Williams to an almost mythological state in my mind. She’s earned her highest regard and I can see now why she touched her so much. Reading Joy Williams is like finding your book twin over and over again. I like to listen to my sister discuss the books she reads and then read them later on myself fresh. It’s great to experience these books through her mind. I started that habit with my older siblings as a kid but unfortunately, the books my brother told me about didn’t liv ...more
Roxanna Banana
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
i am a card-carrying member of joy williams' cult and nothing will ever hurt again.
Matthew Peck
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the third of William's story collections that I've read, and it's my favorite. As in the career arc of Cormac McCarthy, her move to the American Southwest seems to have opened up new channels of imagination. Her earlier collections were all about fractured families and alienated young women. The protagonists still run along those lines in 'Honored Guest', but it's death that's creeping in every tale here, overtly or covertly. Williams reminds the reader of how fragile and absurd human ex ...more
Lucinda K
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
One chief question, in my opinion, will largely determine whether you like this book: How do you feel about dark humor? Love it? Then you'll love this collection in which the eloquent, concise Williams revels in sinister laughs. Her skill in this area is amazing. This was my first book of hers, and she's the first new dark humorist I've discovered in a long time who is really, really good at what she does. I'm happy to have found her and will explore more of her work. The stories feature charact ...more
Patrick Faller
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Another collection that failed to pull me all the way through. The NY Times reviewer nailed the book's fatal flaw dead on, arguing that the collection's lack of landscape led to its groundless characters. Williams has a knack for ironicizing the detail, but when it comes to putting her skewed characters in some kind of context where their pretenatural abilities seems to emanate from some unknowable natural world, she falls well short of the successes in her first collection, which had such textu ...more
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Human stories with structure, fleshed out delicatly, earnestly, and not too judgementally. Joy relates tragedies of varing sizes through perspectives passionate or apathetic. The stories assembled in this book fit together better than those in most short story books. The often abrupt endings complement the narratives, never feeling as though the author just got bored. Artful writing.
Adam Dalva
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Strong, slightly uneven collection of short stories that boast Williams's characteristic blend of absurdity and Americana, detachment and pathos. While it doesn't reach the heights of THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, I read quickly and with pleasure. In her dark humor, she is reminiscent of Lorrie Moore gone Wicca.
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
I guess this was one of those "everyone loves it but me" books. It came critically praised and highly recommended by smart people, but I really didn't find much resembling actual human beings in these stories.
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of very morbid stories, with each character stained by death near or far. My favorite pieces are only a thread separated from 'the quick and the dead', with the desiccated distances. I liked less the stories straying into New England damp and ugly aging history.
Adrian Chen
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I liked the title story a lot. "Charity" was good too.
Alyssa Roibal
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
recommended for the title story, "Charity," and "The Visiting Privilege"
Dan Plonsey
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
These were the first stories I've read by Joy Williams, and while I enjoyed them for the way in which they quickly depart from usual paths, usually into disaster; still, each story left a sort of sour aftertaste. What's that about? The frequent comparison to Flannery O'Connor is apt: bad things happen to imperfect people; how can we who are imperfect expect to achieve perfection; by what moral right can we expect to even stave off disaster and/or evil? I will have to read more of her work.
Burcu Arman
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bağlandığınız hayat sizi tam olarak istediğiniz yere mi bıraktı? Yoksa siz de kaçacak delik mi arıyorsunuz? Rahatsız edici, huzursuz edici derecede güzel...
Unfortunately I just couldn't get into this author's writing style or her stories. Decided to abandon.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I’ve seen people describing Williams’ work with a kind of awe. She certainy has a distinct voice, but I’m not sure that these are stories that will stay with me, because they’re so hard to get a handle on. Don’t pick this up expecting old-fashioned epiphanies from the stories, or (for the most part) recognizable character studies, and certainly not for morals or witness-bearing or social commentary or formal experimentation. (Honestly, I don’t know what she’s doing and ...more
Lucas Miller
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure when I started scanning the shelves of used bookstores for Joy Williams. This might be another product of a year or so of close reading of Tao Lin's old blog in 2005-2006. A strange episode in my literary life. I remember becoming obsessed with the K-Mart Realists. I had a group of friends the first year of college who would pass around Amy Hempel's collected stories talking about it in hushed tones. I read Anne Beattie's Chilly Scenes of Winter. I discovered Lorrie Moore. I had pre ...more
Caner Almaz
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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500 Great Books B...: Honored Guest - Joy Williams - Garima 1 8 Jul 31, 2014 02:09PM  
Favorite Stories in this Collection 4 6 Dec 13, 2013 06:04PM  
  • Distortions
  • The Collected Stories
  • A Relative Stranger: Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • Black Tickets: Stories
  • The Collected Short Stories
  • Like Life
  • The Dead Fish Museum: Stories
  • Among the Missing
  • The Ice at the Bottom of the World: Stories
  • Tell Me 30 Stories
  • A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • Stories in the Worst Way
  • Where Europe Begins
  • The End of the Story
  • Because They Wanted To
  • A Stranger in this World
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
More about Joy Williams...

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“Words at night were feral things.” 23 likes
“She had a dream about a tattoo. This was a pleasant dream. She was walking away and she had the most beautiful tattoo. It covered her shoulders, her back, the back of her legs. It was unspeakably fine.” 4 likes
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