An operation worthy of a master spy, a double agent in the house of fiction.The New York Times
It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature
This work by Diane Williams delves into the strange relationships of men and women. From marital betrayal to spousal abuse and unrelenting desire, Williams illuminates the lives of her characters in prose as sparse and stark as it is beautiful. These stories are as short as prose poems and as complex as novels. In them, meanings remain ambiguous and consequences seem uncertain. In the novella “On Sexual Strength” she describes the intense and sometimes strange relationship between two neighboring couples and the rage that comes with adultery, and a narrator whose social inadequacies and lack of inhibitions lead to destruction.
The world Williams creates is a sensual place where quiet epiphanies — such as the one that occurs after an extramarital affair — are also possible:
It was like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted nature. This is how love can be featured. Such flashes of insight and emotion glue together the fragments of life Williams lays before the reader, and the reader rejoices at the revelations.
The extremity that Williams depicts and the extremity of the depiction evoke something akin to the pity and fear that the great writers of antiquity considered central to literature. Her stories, by removing you from ordinary literary experience, place you more deeply in ordinary life. “Isn’t ordinary life strange?” they ask, and in so asking, they revivify and console.
Harnesses Williams’s essentially comic sensibility to highly sophisticated, highly satisfying ends … [Her] irony never feels forced or distancing; instead, it allows her to get into some very messy facets of human desire as it gets rammed though American life.
A pioneer of the genre [short shorts], Diane Williams excels at chiseling narratives out of a few sentences.hellip; She is today’s premier exponent of the outburst as a literary mode.
Williams at her affectionate, disconsolate, indecorous, meta-fictional best.
… this strange, beguiling slip of a thing from Diane Williams: It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature, short stories and a novella in which Enrique Woytus, a fur sales manager, falls in love with his neighbor’s wife, a predicament rife with heartbreak, absurdity and the peculiar combustion that follows when you mix lust and etiquette, with particular attention to the effects on language.
You have to slow down to read every word of the forty-one stories and one novella in this collection. Each line manages to be powerfully disorienting and erotically charged, spare and ornate, logical and absurd all at the same time.
Reading Diane Williams’ warped micro-fictions is like peering through your next-door neighbor’s window via a high-powered satellite from outer space: the information that comes back is both skewed and impossible to ignore.
With the uproarious rudeness of a great mind, Diane Williams writes surprise after surprise, radically reinvented, indecorous and daring and downright funny stories.
Diane Williams’s singular, unsettling genius has never been as memorably and heartrendingly evident as in this virtuosic new collection of richly gnomic fictions that are, as always, sublimely vital in every line.
Diane Williams is one of the true living heroes of the American avant-garde. Her fiction makes very familiar things very, very weird.
These outrageous and ferociously strange stories test the limits of behavior, of manners, of language, and mark Diane Williams as a startlingly original writer worthy of our closest attention.
In It Was Like My Trying To Have A Tender-Hearted Nature, Diane Williams’s short, precise, and emphatic sentences build a strange society whose denizens are not quite familiar to us and not quite comfortable with their own quietly disturbing evolutions. Not a single moment of the prose, here, is what you would expect, and even the ordinary is, in the context created by Diane Williams, no longer ordinary: it is fresh, happy, and peculiar — or is it we who are refreshed, happy, and more peculiar than before after reading her?
[In] Williams’s latest, she builds on her reputation as the foremost advocate of “flash fiction.”