Joy Williams is the influential author of dozens of short stories and essays, which are collected in Taking Care (1982), Escapes (1990), Honored Guest (2004), and Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals (2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. She has also written four novels, including The Quick and the Dead (2000), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and State of Grace (1973), nominated for a National Book Award.
In this recording from the 1989 Key West Literary Seminar, Williams reads “The Last Generation,” which would be published in Esquire later that year. It tells the story of 9 year old Tommy, whose mother has recently been killed in a car crash, and his relationship with Audrey, the darkly philosophical ex-girlfriend of Tommy’s teenaged older brother
“The last generation has got certain responsibilities,” Audrey said, “though you might think we wouldn’t. We should know nothing and want nothing and be nothing. But at the same time we should want everything and know everything and be everything.”
Upstairs in his room, Walter Junior was lifiting weights. They could hear him, breathing, gasping. Audrey’s strange, smooth face looked blank. It looked empty.
“Did you love my brother?” Tommy asked. “Do you still love him?”
“Certainly not,” Audrey said. “We were just passing friends.”
From KWLS 1989: The American Short Story: A Renaissance