In awarding Joy Williams the Rea Award for the Short Story in 1999, the jurors — Robert Coover, Susan Dodd, and John Edgar Wideman — issued the following about her:
The stories of Joy Williams dissolve the lines between chaos and certainty in our daily lives. A single word or sentence, heartbreakingly familiar yet utterly unexpected, ushers us abruptly out of bounds, off-limits. Because her prose is precise and unyielding, because the possibilities her stories imagine – funny, nasty, subversive, enlightening, scary – are compelling alternatives to the usual spin we put on things, we are seduced, freed to examine the arbitrariness of the particular peace or unpeace we’ve negotiated with the world. But even as it makes us uncomfortable, Joy Williams’ fiction renders more light, more life.
June brought a friend when she went to visit her mother, who was dying. Her friend had never even met her mother, she just happened to be in town. June felt despicable, bur she was terrified. She and her friend sat meekly beside her mother‘s bed. June picked up a book in which her mother had written with a red pen untrue. June thought this was dear, even catastrophic, because it was just a book of poems. Finally her friend left. Go, go, thought June carelessly. Day surrendered to night as it does, and June had the odd thought that she had never been born. The thought appeared quite gracefully and didn‘t seem at all inappropriate. After some time, she was aware of a fly in the room, shuffling along the window sash. She remembered her mother once saying as she had put supper on the table when June was just a child — a fresh, hot supper as was often the case — “How did that fly get in here?” It had been another fly surely, that one.
—from Jerome Stern (ed.), Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories (1996)