Short story: “The Girls”

by look i have opinions

“The Girls,” by Joy Williams

Appeared in the Idaho Review in 2004 (online here); anthologized in Best American Short Stories 2005 (PDF here); collected in The Visiting Privilege

4112 words

I read this story years ago in BASS and when I saw it linked from The Millions, I instantly remembered it. I remember thinking of course we have to find out how old the girls are in the first paragraph, lest we mistake them for teenagers or at least twentysomethings.

I find “The Girls” both dreamlike and extremely undreamlike. I’m not totally sure what decade we’re in, or even what country. I fail to recognize any of the girls’ family’s cultural signifiers beyond that they’re rich. But all the details are presented with such assurance and daylight clarity that like a dreamer, I feel compelled to go along with them. This is the sort of family in which the remains of a cat named Georgia O’Keeffe are preserved in an urn that has little mice for feet. What sort of family is that? I don’t know. But I feel as though I know.