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Changeling

This first ebook edition of the 30th Anniversary Edition of THE CHANGELING by Joy Williams includes a Foreword by Rick Moody. An overlooked and spectacular novel, THE CHANGELING is a visionary fairy tale, a work of mythic genius. Terrifying, poetic, revelations follow THE CHANGELING’s abandoned heroine Pearl everywhere she goes, whether by air, land, or sea. This 3oth Anniversary Edition from Fairy Tale Review Press seeks to reintroduce this novel to contemporary readers as one of the most original and alarming fairy-tale books ever written.

Interview on Bookslut.

Joy Williams has won the Rea Award for the Short Story, the Harold and Mildred Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, among other prizes. Her first novel, State of Grace, was a National Book Award Finalist. The Quick and the Dead (2000), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her short story collections are Taking Care, Escapes, and Honored Guest. Her essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. She lives in Key West, Florida, and Tucson, Arizona.

Excerpt from the Foreword by Rick Moody:

Second novels! Such accursed children! Even when the writers of them are the best and most talented of writers! As Joy Williams assuredly is! Her first novel, State of Grace, was published in 1972 and it had a notable impact from the outset, garnering a nomination for the National Book Award. Williams’s prose, in this debut, was possessed of startling luminosity, of twists and turns of such ferocity that she seemed to entrap the world entire in each and every paragraph—as if by assembling all possible perceptions and all opposing points of view. Her interests were dark, even despairing, her people were afflicted, but a romantic’s belief in imagination and language seemed, from the first, to indicate a bona fide way out.

The Changeling, which you have before you, followed six years later. Is it possible that the times had changed so dramatically in those years? The Changeling, which is rich with the arresting improbabilities of magic realism, with the surrealism of the folkloric revival (Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber was published about the same time), and with the modernist foreboding of Under the Volcano, would have seemed perfectly legible in 1973 when Gravity’s Rainbow was published, or Gaddis’s J.R. But the late seventies, with their punk rock nihilism and their Studio 54 fatuousness, were perhaps not properly situated to understand this variety of Joy Williams challenge. To their shame.

Thirty years later, the situation looks quite different. Felicitously so. The Joy Williams who went on to write the astonishing short stories of Taking Care, Escapes, and Honored Guest, and such marvels of realistic other-worldliness as her recent novel The Quick and the Dead (2002), has instructed us, as the most original writers must, as to the consumption of her graceful arabesques. The tectonic movement of her paragraphs and her narratives no longer looks impulsive, if indeed it ever did. Now it looks exactly like originality.

From The Changeling:

Chapter One

There was a young woman sitting in the bar. Her name was Pearl. She was drinking gin and tonics and she held an infant in the crook of her right arm. The infant was two months old and his name was Sam.

The bar was not so bad. Normal-looking people sat around her eating pretzel logs. The management advertised it as being cool and it was. There was a polar bear of leaded glass hanging in the center of the window. Outside it was Florida. Across the street was a big white shopping center full of white sedans. The heavy white air hung visibly in layers. Pearl could see the layers very clearly. The middle layer was all dream and misunderstanding and responsibility. Things moved about at the top with a little more arrogance and zip but at the bottom was the ever-moving present. It was the present, it had been the present, and it was always going to be the present. Pearl was always conscious of this. It made her pretty passive and indecisive usually.

She was wearing an expensive dress although it was spotted and the wrong weight for the weather. She had no luggage but she had quite a bit of money. She had just come down from the North that morning and had been in the hotel just a little over an hour. She had rented a room here. The management had put a crib in the room for Sam. When they had asked her her name she had replied that it was Tuna, which was not true.

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