Beautiful days Stories

Zach Williams, 1984-

Book - 2024

"From New Yorker and Paris Review contributor and Wallace Stegner Fellow Zach Williams comes a staggering debut story collection that confronts parenthood, mortality, and life's broken promises. Parents awaken in a home in the woods, again and again, to find themselves aging as their toddler remains unchanged. An employee is menaced by a conspiracy-minded security guard and accused of sending a sinister viral email. An aging tour guide leads a troublesome group to the site of a UFO, witnessing the slow social deterioration as the rules of decorum go out the window. In each of Williams' ten stories, time is as fallible as the characters, and reality is witnessed through the gauzy folds of a dream--or a nightmare. Bucolic scene...s devolve into harrowing exercises in abandonment; the quotidian nature of office life raises serious questions of existential fortitude. Williams is keenly aware of the insidiousness lurking in the shadows of the everyday, ably spiking it with humor. He depicts the divided self of the parent, the distances necessary to protect our children, and the fallout of our deepest relationships. Williams sees the perversity in the mundane and dares readers to recognize the impact--and beauty--of time's relentless movement. With exquisite prose and a lacerating wit, Beautiful Days holds a mirror to the many absurdities of being human and refuses to let us look away"--

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Short stories
New York : Doubleday [2024]
Main Author
Zach Williams, 1984- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
222 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Williams's remarkable debut collection explores grief and masculinity in stories that hint at their characters' strange afterlives. The recently divorced narrator of "Trial Run" trudges into the office during a snowstorm, where he's unhappily shut in with a conspiracy theorist security guard and a toxic coworker. The narrator has no love for either man, but by the story's revelatory ending, he has turned his unforgiving gaze on himself. In "Red Light," an oddball and increasingly tense tale, a man named Parker grows curious about the boyfriend of the woman he's having sex with, who's watching Parker and the woman while hiding in a closet. "Lucca Castle," "Ghost Image," and "Return to Crashaw" each follow a different man's stumbling attempt to forge a new life after his wife's death. Their respective settings--a yacht headquartering an anti-capitalist cult off the coast of Queens, N.Y., a bombed-out Disney World, and a sandstone monument that attracts UFO obsessives--are rendered in an unsettling and deeply captivating dream logic, hinting at the possibility that the narrators are already dead (the narrator of "Ghost Image," who spots a "Hell Is Real" billboard while driving across the country, wonders if he's "entered hell... the hell of earthbound ghosts that repeat the same actions, haunt the same spaces"). Williams's tales deserve favorable comparison to the stories of Wells Tower and George Saunders. (June)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A clutch of eerie domestic tales, infused with contemporary paranoia. Most of the stories in Williams' bracing debut are narrated by mild-mannered men witnessing the world shift and warp around them. In "Trial Run," a man finds a co-worker sunk in antisemitic conspiracy-mongering about the boss. In "A New Toe," a father finds that his infant son has sprung exactly that. An especially effective (and hallucinatory) story, "Lucca Castle," takes its narrator from gentle anxiety over the well-being of his daughter to odd coincidences involving his girlfriend, late wife, and an apocalyptic theorist. Much like George Saunders, Williams develops setups rooted in equal parts absurdity and peril: "Return to Crashaw" is narrated by a tour guide at a peculiar desert site filled with megaliths of unknown origin; "Wood Sorrel House" and "Ghost Image" both turn on fathers whose families fragment in post-apocalyptic scenarios. But unlike Saunders, Williams doesn't mine his setups for humor, cultivating a horror story vibe. In "Mousetraps," a man's hunt for a humane trap takes him into the depths of a hardware store, a mazelike symbol for humanity's own constrictions, and "Red Light" takes what should be an erotic kinky online hookup and makes it a minefield of uncertainty. Some stories, like "Ghost Image," push narrative cohesion to the breaking point, recalling Barthelme at his most out-there. But throughout, Williams is determined to metaphorically work through the fear and feelings of disassociation from modern life. We're much like the narrator of "Golf Cart," who in the middle of the night is summoned by his brother to confront some unnamed and unseen dangers: As the story intensifies, the narrator's brother muses, "There's no way life is real." Williams persuades you that the guy might have a point. Lyrical, well-crafted, offbeat yarns. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.