The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams

The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams

The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams

The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams

Synopsis

New Directions has long published poet William Carlos Williams' entire body of short fiction as The Farmers' Daughters (1961). This new edition of The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams contains all fifty-two stories combining the early collections The Knife of the Times (1932), Life Along the Possaic (1938) with the later collection Make Light of It (1950) and the great long story, "The Farmers' Daughters" (1956). When these stories first appeared, their vitality and immediacy shocked many readers, as did the blunt, idiosyncratic speech of Williams' immigrant and working-class characters. But the passage of time has silenced the detractors, and what shines in the best of these stories is the unflinching honesty and deep humanity of Williams' portraits, burnished by the seeming artlessness which only the greatest masters command.

Excerpt

Experienced physicians recognize that they are participants in the relationship between a patient and his or her disease. Even before the diagnostic thread begins to be unraveled, a doctor's mere presence modifies aspects of the process by which the pathology will reveal its nature. Wise healers go beyond an awareness of their complicity in the patient's response to illness—they make good use of what can be learned by scrupulous observation of the interplay between disease, themselves, and the sick.

Wise writers, too, perceive their presence in a work of literature; it permeates every story that is to be told. They watch with a third eye as they examine and recount events, and the extra lens is focused on themselves. Psychiatrists, of course, are skilled in such things. "Listening with the third ear" is an expression that has long occupied an honored position in their terminology. When a scene is viewed, a conversation held, or an event described, the inward turning of eyes, ears, and mind—in essence, the perceptiveness that comes only from the heart of the witness—is the salience that reaches the heart of a reader. It is with the testimony of our innermost selves that we speak to each other in the most compelling of languages. A heart speaks, and another heart understands what has been said.

Access to his innermost self was among the great gifts that enabled William Carlos Williams again and again to discover the elusive quality he called "the thing" in human experience, and to transmit it whole to his readers:

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