cover image Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

Diane Williams. McSweeney’s, $20 (136p) ISBN 978-1-940450-84-1

Surprising, funny, and evocative, the narratives in Williams’s (Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty) newest collection mine small instances for larger meanings. Despite their brevity, these 40 stories exhibit great depth. They explore loneliness, passion, and the “mysteries of daily life.” The opening piece, “Beauty, Love and Vanity Itself” quickly establishes the theme and tone. In a digressive, conversational style, an unnamed narrator speaks of her longing for romance. She recalls former lovers and a shared moment with a stranger at a hotel pool that gave her a deeper understanding of her own life. In “Cinch,” a homeowner attempts to rid the yard of a gopher. In “Gulls,” a woman watches two birds collide in flight. “The Poet” depicts a woman trying to slice bread to feed hungry house pets. The detail and characterization warp the mundane into touching and haunting situations. Each story is a swift bursts of life that encourages repeated readings and opens new interpretations with each encounter. The collection draws its title from “A Little Bottle of Tears,” about a married man reflecting on the trials of wedlock. He asks himself if vows can withstand infidelity and suppressed resentments. He answers his own question by repeating the word fine five times, each utterance potentially carrying a different meaning—much like how the moments described in this collection provide different insights when carefully reexamined. Once again, Williams’s askew, precise prose demonstrates tremendous compassion and skill. (Jan.)