Acclaimed author Joy Williams returns to Washington University in St. Louis for a special in-person reading of her new novel, “Harrow,” her first in 21 years, at 4 pm Thursday, October 14, at Graham Chapel. Following this, as part of the Assembly Series event, David Schuman, director of the Master of Fine Arts in Arts and Sciences program and former Williams student, will interview Williams about his long career, which has included passages. as a visiting professor at the university and friendships with now deceased literary luminaries William Gass and William Gaddis, both of whose papers reside in university libraries‘Collection of modern literature.
University libraries also host the ‘Honored Guest’ exhibit, featuring hand-typed manuscripts, tear-off sheets, correspondence and other material from the Joy Williams Papers, which the Modern Literature Collection acquired in 2017.
“There is a lot to celebrate – this new novel, her articles here at WashU and her long history as a teacher at this university,” said Joel Minor, curator of the Modern Literature Collection at University Libraries.
Minor said Williams inspires deep devotion among fans.
“She has this wry sense of humor and always wears dark sunglasses,” Minor said. “Every time she speaks, you can feel a silence invading the audience, a kind of reverence. She’s kind of like a rock star that way.
“Harrow” follows Khristen, a teenager adrift in a hellish ecological landscape. The New York Times describes the book as Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” meets “White Lotus,” while The New Yorker said: “William’s vision of a shattered land seems to have sprung from Francisco Goya’s brain.“
“’Harrow’ is, in some ways, a continuation of his previous work,” Minor said. “There are the signature elements – a looted environment, hints of the supernatural and this quirky, but poetic dialogue. She has the gift of creating these dreamlike worlds that seem hallucinogenic and yet recognizable.
Previously, Williams had published four novels, including Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Quick and the Dead,” and five story books, as well as “Bad nature,”An essay book that was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Among his many honors are the Rea Award for the Short Story and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected to the academy in 2008.
Pre-registration, self-screening and wearing a mask at all times are required for participants in person. Doors will open at 3:30 pm Virtual participants are encouraged to register as well to receive a reminder and email link to the live stream.