Diane Williams: “How High? – That High”

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Author, Diane Williams. Photo by Sarah Wilmer.

Idiosyncratic short story writer Diane Williams discusses her new book, “How High? – That High.” She says she is unable to produce fiction any other way than by her own methods. And no one else writes the way she does. Easily disappointed and bored with sentences, she chops and rearranges every line, every paragraph, to hear the music in her writing, to create a musical composition. And her stories reveal themselves to her as she writes.

Excerpt from How High? – That High by Diane Williams


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 girls at their hopscotch game—hop, hop, hop, jump, and bow. They bowed down when they stooped to retrieve their pebble marker.
To revive her sense of purpose, the woman was out on the avenue, hugging her little body.
Her feet felt pinched inside her shoes, her best shoes. Her stylized hair fell down her shoulders. What else?
She put one foot precisely in front of the other, just like the old adage prescribed—just to test what that would feel like.
Would this help her to suppose that she was any more determined—any more capable of taking care of herself?
She prayed nobody was paying her any mind, as this gambit caused her hips to sidle this way that way, lewdly.
In her own home she had no witness.
At bedtime, these days, she entered the room alone in which she and the dour Don Super had once slept together. He had so often recoiled from her.
Well, oughtn’t she be able to reach out to a trusted person with the same confidence she has when she takes up a bar of soap or nudges a chair back?
From a distance, she used to watch Super’s penis rise, because he had made it clear that he had no need for her participation. And although his appendage essentially floated in place—it also looked ready and able to propel itself.
What this woman decided on Fifth Avenue, in the here and now, is that she ought to plow forward and skip!
She should not permit her arms and hands to drag down like wet noodles.

Excerpted from How High? — That High© 2021 Diane Williams. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Soho Press. All rights reserved.