Bob Wake's Reviews > The Changeling

The Changeling by Joy Williams
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's review
Oct 27, 2014

it was amazing

Joy Williams’s remarkable 1978 novel The Changeling (the followup to her 1973 National Book Award-nominated debut, State of Grace) was notoriously torpedoed by Anatole Broyard in a New York Times review (“startlingly bad,” Broyard declared). Absent today’s social media pushback, The Changeling sold poorly and went quickly out of print, finally to be rescued and reprinted in 2008 by Fairy Tale Review Press. The story opens in a Florida bar where 20-year-old alcoholic Pearl and her newborn have fled an abusive relationship and a sinister coastal-island commune that is conjured for us as equal parts Peter Pan and The Island of Doctor Moreau. There are indeed fairy-tale components to The Changeling, but because Williams was inspired in part by Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano (Pearl sees herself as “the drunkest person in the world”), the novel seems at every turn refracted through a shot-glass prism of delerium tremens (“Joe’s place had been taken by this whinnying, blasphemous thing, all hoofs and teeth in the instant it took before the eye could see it was a boy again, laughing and cursing them”). The final chapter is composed in a feverish stream-of-consciousness that leaves readers stranded along with Pearl in a no-exit maze of dark mythologies and hallucinations.
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Quotes Bob Liked

Joy Williams
“Perhaps the human race had yet to be born. Perhaps it was all a deception by the government. It hadn't happened yet. This life was nothing but the womb.”
Joy Williams, The Changeling

Joy Williams
“Memory is the resurrection. The dead move among us the living in our memory and that is the resurrection.”
Joy Williams, The Changeling

Joy Williams
“Pearl suspected God didn't love human beings much. She suspected that what He loved most was Nothingness.”
Joy Williams, The Changeling

Joy Williams
“Every living thing suffers transfiguration. Yes, until the creation of Eve, Adam had fondled beasts.”
Joy Williams, The Changeling

Joy Williams
“Children were quite disturbing really. It was difficult to think about children for long. They were all fickle little nihilists and one was forever being forced to protect oneself from their murderousness.”
Joy Williams, The Changeling

Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 1, 2014 – Finished Reading
October 27, 2014 – Shelved

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