Contemporary fiction set in the South these days usually focuses on poor whites and blacks, as in the works of Barry Hannah, Ron Cooper, Chris Offutt and Michael Gills. We get it: there are poor whites and blacks rummaging through the ruins of the Confederacy trying to make sense of the rubble. The Last Family, however, by George Williams is set in upscale Mountain Brook, Alabama, outside of Birmingham, George Williams’ finest book to date, The Last Family is the story of the Clayborne family, an upper middle-class white tribe of people served by black nannies, maids, gardeners, and the family fortune. When their lives go awry, they invariably return home to tap the stability of generations of resources and have a meal at the family table, big enough to seat twelve and more expensive than most people’s cars. It’s a seemingly perfect life.
That kind of life, however, becomes more complex when no one in the family has an actual purpose, a raison d’etre. With no monetary worries, what does one do or become? How to fill the void? We’ve seen suburban novels before, such as those of Cheever and Updike and Eugenides, but none as acutely honed, as keenly perceptive, and, unlike other suburban works, as fully passionate, lyrical, and painful in its display of neuroses, anxieties, and foibles. Faulkner defined the South for a century.
Now comes George Williams in The Last Family, showing us the wreckage of the New South, still confused, still running from its history and failures. Written with the poise and grace of authors long dead, The Last Family brings the South alive once again.
Praise for the work of George Williams:
“George Williams writes with an electric energy, unpredictable inventiveness, and deft ear for dialogue that makes him one of the most exciting and compelling writers of his generation.” —Richard Burgin, author of Don’t Think
“Recommended to adventurous readers, who will surely enjoy Williams’s wildly irreverent inventions.” —Library Journal
“George Williams, a self-described ‘recovering anarchist,’ writes a hyper-controlled, smart and taut prose that goes beyond the spare exactness of the Moderns. The sentences seem so easy, but their accretion is sly: William’s prose unveils a tough and dense vision, the steady shock of a live snapping wire.” —Stephen D. Geller, author of Jews in the Bosom of the Big Bang
“The stories in this breathless and relentless collection are rendered in a voice both elegant and manic, as if we’re seeing the world through a surreal and yet precise kaleidoscope, one that both celebrates and condemns our foibles and follies. Satirical and cutting as Jonathan Swift, hectic and skewed as Van Gogh, bitter and morbid as Poe, the stories collected in The Selected Letters of the Late Biagio Serafim Sciarra show us that all is not well in Paradise, that the savage wealth of America has created a land of lunacy. Perhaps only Gogol and Barthelme have written stories this fantastically brutal and beautiful. George Williams is one of the finest minds and writers of our generation.” —Eric Miles Williamson, author of East Bay Grease