A Haunting Tale To Judge 'The Quick And The Dead' In The Quick and the Dead, Joy Williams fixes a gaze of cold but evocative detachment on the lives of an eclectic cast of characters living in the arid Southwest. Writer Sarah Braunstein says the surreal novel uses wit, candor and virtuosic prose to delve into "our subterranean selves."


A Haunting Tale To Judge 'The Quick And The Dead'

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Now, Braunstein is a writer herself, and she recommends a book by her former teacher. It's for our series, You Must Read This, where authors talk about a book they love.

SARAH BRAUNSTEIN: For one semester, Joy Williams, whose short story collection "Taking Care" I'd long admired, was my teacher in a writing workshop. With cutting precision and candor, she tore into our drafts.

NORRIS: My god, she'd deprive me of an eye.

NORRIS: brisk, funny, uncanny. We get a sense of something truly alive between, not merely inside, the characters. Though Williams spares her characters no pain, the overall effect is deeply compassionate. To gaze as she does, to strip away layers of socialization, to show us the bizarreness beneath, we need a brilliant and detached guide. This is us, Williams seems to say. These are our subterranean selves. The pleasures and pains of this book are vast. I refused to look away, even when I wanted to.


NORRIS: That was Sarah Braunstein, author of the book "The Sweet Relief of Missing Children." You can read this and other recommendations at our website, npr.org. And to discuss books with other NPR listeners, join the NPR Facebook community. Search for NPR Books and click on like.

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