Joy Williams, “Escapes”

Screen-Shot-2012-02-13-at-8.39.04-PMA mother and daughter drive to Portland to see a magician.

(from Escapes)

My mother went to the phone and ordered two tickets, and not many days after that, we were in our car driving to Portland for the matinee performance. I very much liked the word matinee. Matinee, matinee, I said. There was a broad hump on the floor between our seats and it was here where my mother put her little glass, the glass often full, never, it seemed, more than half empty. We chatted together and I thought we must have appeared interesting to others as we passed by in our convertible in winter. My mother spoke about happiness. She told me that happiness that comes out of nowhere, out of nothing, is the very best kind.

This is the title story from Williams’ 1990 collection, which I recently bought at a friend’s recommendation. The books is in perfect condition and I wonder why hardcovers are so much cheaper to buy used.

I loved “Escapes.” Stories told from a child’s perspective are difficult to write well and she pulls this off beautifully–the voice is direct and smart while maintaining all of the wonder and fear of a small child. It was originally published in The Chicago Tribune. Here’s a link, though I’m not sure how to make all of those awful ads go away, or if it’s possible. Probably not.

You should also listen to her read “Why I Write” from her essay collection, Ill Nature. It’s the best ‘why I write’ essay I’ve ever encountered. (The other Tin House podcasts are pretty awesome, too.)

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