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A Selfie as Big as the Ritz: Stories


A Selfie as Big as the Ritz: Stories

The adage goes that a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Is it possible to give readers those three components in a very short form? Can a story give us a character study without a developed or complex plot? What makes a story a story? Great writers can challenge readers to think about form, all the while offering a solid story delivered in an enjoyable style. Lara Williams checks all those boxes in her collection of short fiction, A SELFIE AS BIG AS THE RITZ.

With 21 stories in under 200 pages, Williams flies from one character to another. But the book is cohesive, as so many of her characters and situations are of a type and her style is so very consistent. Mostly the stories follow young women navigating relationships, usually romantic but occasionally other kinds. A SELFIE AS BIG AS THE RITZ begins, appropriately enough, with “It Begins,” which feels like a survey or an introduction to the type of themes and women in which Williams is interested. Written in second person, it puts the reader in the place of a woman who moves from graduate school to work, from one bad date to the next, with introspection and clarity coming at unexpected moments.

"Williams has mastered the very short form in this delightful, sometimes funny, quite quirky, brutally honest and occasionally heartbreaking debut."

“One of Those Life Things” also introduces a woman in a transitional moment in her life. Finding herself in her early 30s and living in a terrible apartment post-breakup, she realizes she is pregnant by her ex-boyfriend. After terminating her pregnancy, she is still left with the heartache that seems to manifest in the screams she hears from her neighbors at night.

One of the longer stories, at just about 13 pages, is “This Small Written Thing.” A couple lives apart after Joseph gets a new job and Flora stays behind. At first, Joseph returns on weekends, and Flora organizes their time together with comfort and romance. But as time goes on, he stays away longer and longer, and his visits home become more perfunctory and cold. Her suspicions of an affair are balanced by her willingness to accept what he offers her and her desire to preserve their relationship.

There are male protagonists here as well. Samuel, in “A Selfie as Big as the Ritz,” finds himself questioning his romantic relationship both as it dissolves and as he looks back on it. He clung to its last days, a trip to Paris, but also finds that after the breakup he “didn’t so much mind his life without her.” This resignation, verging on apathy, is a hallmark of the book, but Williams balances it with a compassionate realism so the stories are never too dark or depressing.

Thoughtful and of the moment, A SELFIE AS BIG AS THE RITZ is introspective but not always deep. There is a grace to Williams’ writing and sensitivity that elevates each story as the characters discover --- and often lose --- love and search for meaning and connection, often finding only the ability to accept the moment as it is. Williams has mastered the very short form in this delightful, sometimes funny, quite quirky, brutally honest and occasionally heartbreaking debut.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on December 1, 2017

A Selfie as Big as the Ritz: Stories
by Lara Williams

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250126622
  • ISBN-13: 9781250126627