Moderate to Poor, Occasionally Good

Eley Williams


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4th Estate
18 July 2024
ISBN: 9780008618926
208 pages

From the publisher

A Granta Best Young British Novelist The stunning new collection of stories from the award-winning author of The Liar’s Dictionary and Attrib. and Other Stories. 'Magical' JON McGREGOR Granta Best Young British novelist and author of Attrib.

and other stories, Eley Williams returns with a subversive and essential collection of short stories exploring the nature of relationships both intimate and transient – from the easy gamesmanship of contagious yawns to the horror of a smile fixed for just a second too long. Whether jostling for attention or ducking to evade it, here characters seek connections not only with each other but also with versions of themselves. In ‘Cuvier’s Feather’, a courtroom sketch artist delights in committing portraits of their lover to paper but their need to capture likenesses forever is revealed to have darker, more complex intentions.

At the centre of ‘Wilgefortis’, a child’s schoolyard crush on a saint marks a confrontation with the reality of a teenage body in flux. An editor of canned laughter loses their confidence and seeks divine intervention; an essayist annotates their thoughts on Keats by way of internet-gleaned sex tips. Moderate to Poor, Occasionally Good hums with fossicking language and ingenious experiments in form and considers notions of playfulness, authenticity and care as it holds relationships to account: their sweet misunderstandings, soured reflections, queer wish fulfilments and shared, held breaths.