There Is Happiness: New and Selected Stories (Hardcover)

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There Is Happiness: New and Selected Stories By Brad Watson, Joy Williams (Introduction by) Cover Image

There Is Happiness: New and Selected Stories (Hardcover)

By Brad Watson, Joy Williams (Introduction by)


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A posthumous collection of beloved and never-before-read stories from a titan of contemporary Southern fiction.

“Here is a generous portion of the work of a swiftly passing lifetime. Bountiful is the deserving page,” Joy Williams writes in her introduction to this astonishing selection of Brad Watson’s published and unpublished stories: “excellent, assured, funny, startling, heartbreaking, wild,“ full of “freakish flair” and “melancholy realism”—stories that give us a “glimpse” of ourselves “so surprising, so varied yet unequivocal, so ruthlessly complete, that it does awaken us in some manner, if not protect or prepare us.”

Brad Watson was a master of dark comedy, extraordinary lyricism, appalling grotesquerie, and unabashed vulnerability; a sublime prose stylist whose novels and stories drew upon the fecundity and moodiness of the South. Male meltdown, carrying with it the possibility of being saved by Dolly Parton or some other woman or maybe by animal friends, is a theme, as is young love and its disillusionment, as are strange neighbors who cannot be understood. A leopard that consumes its zookeeper, pronghorn antelope tenderly transporting the poop of their young, insufferably articulate birds and restless, tolerant dogs—this is also eco-fiction of a very peculiar sort, in which nature reassures, transcends, and finally escapes judging or being judged by us.

Roller-coastering from the mournful to the comical (sometimes in the same paragraph), Watson’s work is both embedded in a literary heritage tied to place and at home in a universal literature of the absurd. His stories waltz with lovely and strange melancholy, infused with wit and astonishing beauty. There Is Happiness embodies the twisted hilarity and undeniable grace of an underrecognized literary genius.

Brad Watson (1955–2020) was the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Heaven of Mercury and Miss Jane, and two collections of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. His work has been recognized by the short list and long list of the National Book Award, the International Dublin Literary Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Great Lakes New Writers Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Fiction (twice), the Southern Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in Fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harper Lee Award, and the Award in Letters granted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He taught creative writing at Harvard University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Wyoming, Laramie.

Product Details ISBN: 9781324076421
ISBN-10: 1324076429
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 16th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English
What sets Watson’s work apart from his contemporaries is a singular strangeness. The world we know is always present, yet it is widened into something more wonderous, more heartfelt, and we find ourselves elevated into the sublime.
— Ron Rash, author of The Caretaker

Brad Watson’s remarkable talent truly shines in short fiction. It’s hard to know which element is strongest—his bold inventiveness for story or the deep compassion he brings to his characters. As I read these wonderful stories, I often stopped to reread sentences, stricken by awe at his glittering prose. For those people already familiar with Brad’s work, you are in for a wonderful treat. If you’re new to his work, I envy you for the many books ahead of you to revel in.
— Chris Offutt, author of Code of the Hills

A brilliant short story writer, Brad Watson could write breathless, comic scenes, or dreamy hallucinations, or glowering repartee; and he could surprise a reader with sudden breaks into the supernatural. He was as good at delivering riveting bursts of menace as he was at alleviating that menace with moments of transcendent beauty. Watson was always pursuing the mysteries of what it means to be human in the world; in There is Happiness, his singular, beautiful voice lives on.

— Anthony Doerr, author of Cloud Cuckoo Land