The Collected Stories of William Goyen
William Goyen
Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York (USA), 1975 (1975)
296 pages

Goyen himself tells us in the preface of the book what his view of writing short stories is all about:

For what is worth to those who want to write stories or simply to know something of one writer's insight in the writing of short fiction, I have felt the short-story form as some vitality, some force that begins (and not necessarily at the beginning, grows in force, reaches a point beyond which it cannot go without losing force, loses force and declines; stops. For me, story telling is a rhythm, a charged movement, a chain of pulses or beatrrs. To write out of life is to catch, in pace, this pulse that beats in the material of life. If one misses this rhythm, his story does not seem to "work"; is mysteriously dead; seems to imitate life but has not joined life. The story is therefore uninteresting to the reader (and truly to the writer himself), or not clear. I believe this is a good principle to consider.

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, p. X)

Beginning of The White Rooster, first story included in the book:

There were two disturbances in Mrs. Marcy Samuels' life that were worrying her nearly insane. First, it was, and had been for two years now, Grandpa Samuels, who should have long ago been dead but kept wheeling around her house in his wheel chair, alive as ever. The first year he came to live with them it was plain that he was in good health and would probably live long. But during the middle of the second year he fell thin and coughing and after that there were some weeks when Mrs. Samuels and her husband, Watson, were sure on Monday that he would die and relieve them of him before Saturday. Yet he wheeled on and on, not ever dying at all.

The second disturbance that was about to drive Marcy Samuels crazy was a recent disturbance which grew and grew until it became a terror. It was a stray white rooster that crowed at her window all day long and, worst of all, in the early mornings. No one knew where he came from, but there he was, crowing to all the other roosters far and near —and they answering back in a whole choir of crowings. His shrieking was bad enough, but then he had to outrage her further by digging in her pansy bed. Since he first appeared to harass her, Mrs. Samuels had spent most of her day chasing him out of the flowers or throwing objects at him where he was, under her window, his neck stretched and strained in a perfectly blatant crow. After a week of this, she was almost frantics, and she told her many friends on the telephone or in town or from her back yard.

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, p. 1)

End of Pore Perrie:

(The thing of it is, they say Son still comes to Crecy once in awhile. That Linsie would see him at the edge of the grove and go out to meet him, after Perrie passed away, speak his name, 'Son,' and say, 'Commere Son,' only to find him not there at all. She would see him and then she wouldn't. Had he come, or hadn't he? Sometimes she would see a lantern going over the ground or hanging in a tree in the grove; sometimes it was just the light in the brooder. Was he there or wasn't he? They say a Peeping Tom with a flashlight has been seen at windows of Crecy houses. That the 'Postolics say the Devil was seen walking in the pastures at night with a torch. That somebody has been living with the Gypsies up on the hill. That a Negro on the road saw Son and Linsie dancing naked in the pinegrove one night. And that Linsie's seen Son all through the house, behind the beaded curtains between the hall and middle bedroom, his face at the frosted pane on the front door an called, 'Son Son commere to me and tell me what is in your craw.'

The thing of it is (and then I'm through, this story is done), when Linsie is buried in the family plot next to pore Perrie, these two sister-mothers will have this to settle between themselves there under the dirt. Linsie has a message for pore Perrie, and it won't be long, now, before she takes it to her. They have this Son between them, until Doomsday, ghost and flesh.

And now I'm moving on (oh hear my song); this is the story as it was told me; and as I go on, on the road, with a message to deliver, I want to get it all straight. There is this Son's pain to understand and tell about and I look for tongue to tell it with.

Pore Perrie.)

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, p. 49)

Some old wisdom from the South, taken from Ghost and Flesh, Water and Dirt:

'Anyway,' Fursta said, 'little cattle little care —you're beginnin again now, fresh and empty handed, it's later and it's shorter, yo life, but go on from here not there,' she said. 'You've had one kind of a life, had a husband, putt im in iz grave (now leave im there!), had a child and putt her away, too; start over, hon, the world don't know it, the world's fresh as ever —it's a new day, putt some powder on yo face and start goin roun. Get you a job, and try that; or take you a trip...

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, p. 54)

End of the same story:

Cause I've learned this and I'm gonna tell ya: there's a time for live things and a time for dead, for ghosts and for flesh 'n bones: all life is just a sharin of ghosts and flesh. Us humans are part ghost and part flesh —part fire and part ash— but I think maybe the ghost part is the longest lastin, the fire blazes but the ashes last forever. I had fire in California (and water putt it out) and ash in Texis (and it went to dirt); but I say now, while I'm tellin you, there's a world both places, a world where there's ghosts and a world where there's flesh, and I believe the real right way is to take our worlds, of ghosts or of flesh, take each one as they come and take what comes in em: take a ghost and grieve with im, settin still; and take the flesh 'n bones and go roun; and even run out to meet what worlds come in to our lives, strangers (like you), and ghosts (like Raymon Emmons) and lovers (like Nick Natowski)... and be what each world wants us to be.

And I think that ghosts, if you set still with em long enough, can give you over to flesh 'n bones; and that flesh 'n bones, if you go roun when it's time, can send you back to a faithful ghost. One provides the other.

Saw pore Raymon Emmons all last night, all last night seen im plain as day.

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, pp. 58-59)

Humor at the school in The Grasshopper's Burden:

Billy Mangus was reading and Quella wondered if his false tooth in front was wiggling and she stretched over to see. No. It must be locked in place now. But if he wanted to, Billy could, by unlocking his false tooth some way whith his tongue, cause it to wiggle like a loose picket in a fence. This tooth was his special thing in a class or anywhere if he wanted to unlock it. Suddenly she just had to see it wiggle and she did not know why but she shouted, right in the middle of the reading, "Wiggle us your tooth, Billy!" This made Miss Morris very outdone and Billy Mangus giggled and the whole class tittered. Miss Morris made everything quiet, then stared so hard at Quella and all the class sat very still to watch Miss Morris do one of her stares, hold her rocky eyes, never even breathing or blinking, right on a pupil until he had to look down first. Quella did not know whether to try to outstare Miss Morris by doing just the same to her until she put her eyes down, or to look to see if Billy Mangus was wiggling his tooth. But she decided she would rather see the tooth and turned to look; and so Miss Morris won. "Sit up straight, Quella, and do not talk one more time out of turn!" Miss Morris said, very proud because she had won a staring contest.

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, pp. 62-63)

Cruelty of kids:

As she crouched there she suddenly heard someone coming down the hall and looked to see who could it be. It was the awful deformnity of George Kurunus writhing and slobbering and skulking towards her. She was afraid of him and thought she would scream as all the girls did when he came to them; but she knew if you went up to him not afraid of his twisted face and said George to him and talked to him he would not do anything to you. Together, all the kids played with him, at him, as though he was some crazy and funny thing like a bent toy on a string; but no one ever wanted to be with him alone. Often a class would hear a scratching at the door and would see his hoodlum face at a door pane like Hallowe'en and be frightened until they saw it was just George Kurunus. Then the class would laugh and make faces back a him and the teacher would go to the door and say "Now, George..." and shoo him away; and the class would titter. The boys all went around with him as if he was something they owned, something they could use for some stunt or trick on somebody, their arms around his shoulder; and they talked and laughed with him and told him ugly jokes and things about girls and sicked him on certain girls. Why did this deformity George have to be in a school? He couldn't even hold a word still in his mouth when he said it, for it rattled or hopped away —this was why he was in Stuttering Class, but it did him no good, he still broke a workd when he said it, as if it were a twig, he still said ruined words.

(William Goyen: The Collected Stories of William Goyen, pp. 66-67)

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Artistic Factor: 6/10