Summary and book reviews of How High? -- That High by Diane Williams

How High? -- That High

by Diane Williams

How High? -- That High by Diane Williams X
How High? -- That High by Diane Williams
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  • Published:
    Oct 2021, 128 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Book Summary

Diane Williams, an American master of the short story who will "rewire your brain" (NPR), is back with a collection in which she once again expands the possibilities of fiction.

These stories depict ordinary moments—a visit to the doctor's office or a married couple's hundredth dance together—but within the quotidian, Williams delivers a lifetime of insecurities, lusts, rejections, and revelations, making her work equally discomfiting and amusing. With unmatched wit in every sentence, Williams captures whole universes in a story, delivering visionary insights into what it means to be human.

Williams' devotees will be newly enthralled by her elegantly strange, bewitching stories in How High? — That High. Those who have yet to meet "the godmother of flash fiction" (The Paris Review) will find an extraordinary introduction in these pages.

These stories appear in How High? — That High by Diane Williams, published by Soho Press (2021).

STICK

How best to touch these woody objects or a person?

She batted together the parts of the sycamore stick she had broken in two and then made of them the self-important capital letter T—and she spun one.

She rolled the stick over her thumb and then she tried for greater twirling speed, as she sat on the park bench that bore a personalized inscribed plaque dedicated to MY DEAREST NANCY.

She is not that Nancy, nor is she a beloved Lara yet, who might have a plan that aims to shore up her heart and her strength, with tools and accessories that support her life in the early-evening-burning-summertime in the city.

Just do it, she thought, and she put the stick through its paces again. Its athleticism, its success, it seemed to her, could foretell her own. So that it pained her when she had to throw the sticks away.

She stood suddenly to walk on, but instead paused to watch ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Williams examines her characters' lives with the storytelling equivalent of a jeweler's loupe, looking at distinctly individual moments that are common to all of us, but not often thought of in the way she presents them, because we're so busy. She is an interesting storyteller working in the genre of flash fiction. The questions she poses point to our basic humanity in its innumerable shades...continued

Full Review Members Only (541 words).

(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

BOMB Magazine
The new stories are like the old stories in the pleasures they deliver, starting with Williams's irresistible, inimitable opening sentences...How High? – That High is a slyly amusing book; even the darker stories veer into humor.

New York Journal of Books
Diane Williams writes short stories that are dares. They dare to disorient, drawing near-subconscious connections between everyday happenings and emotional turmoil...[How High?—That High] creat[es] a unique headspace that invites revelation even as it playfully breaks the rules.

New York Times
These 34 stories, however compressed, are rooted in the dramatic potential of extramarital affairs and erotic regret...At her best, Williams adopts a metafictional awareness of the scrutiny readers are likely to train on her not especially forthcoming leads...[F]iction ought to lead us to those precipices where language fails and silence begins. You would be well advised, with a master like Williams, to take the plunge.

Publishers Weekly
Williams returns with a collection showcasing her mastery of succinct and suggestive stories...Williams's prose evokes both strangeness and familiarity as she gets at the core of what it means to live into one's later years. This is by no means for everyone, but it will surely satisfy fans of well-wrought fiction.

LitHub
Diane Williams' writing is like a fine wine; you're enchanted by the first sip, and it only gets better with age...[These stories] cover your everyday mundanities, but the magic is in her ability to turn a phrase, to surprise on the sentence-level.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Williams is a magician of the miniature. Her 10th book of short fiction features 34 stories, all in the span of 128 pages...Brief, elliptical, steeped in longing—or is that lust?—they offer slices of life that rely on interior more than exterior details, which is to say they are small road maps of the soul...Williams' small gems are as dense and beautiful as diamonds, compressed from the carbon of daily life.

The Millions
To take How High? — That High onto a subway or beach is to risk missing your stop, or a coming tsunami.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

How Short Can Stories Get?

Hands typing on a typewriterHey, wait! Where are you going? This isn't going to be a long article. I promise!

In fact, it may well be as short as a piece of flash fiction, which sounds like a creation for the age of Twitter, but actually goes much further back. At least as far back as around 600 BCE when many of the tales attributed to Aesop are believed to have originated.

These fables, as well as the myths found in the Iliad and the Odyssey and elsewhere, are short enough to give the reader pause. Just one line could take on new life in the mind, picking up where an author left off, a kind of calisthenics for the imagination.

In the 19th century, authors such as Honoré de Balzac, Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin and Ambrose Bierce experimented with the form....

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Readalikes

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More books by Diane Williams

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    These stories, told with economy and precision, infused with humor and pathos, excavate brilliantly the latent desires and motivations that drive life forward.

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