From New Yorker and Paris Review contributor Zach Williams comes a staggering debut story collection that confronts parenthood, mortality, and life’s broken promises.
Parents awaken in a home in the woods, again and again, to find themselves aging as their infant remains unchanged. An employee is menaced by a conspiracy-minded security guard and accused of sending a sinister viral email. An aging tour guide leads a troublesome group to the site of a UFO, witnessing the slow social deterioration as the rules of decorum go out the window.
In each of Williams’ ten stories, time is as fallible as the characters, and reality is witnessed through the gauzy folds of a dream—or a nightmare. Bucolic scenes devolve into harrowing exercises in abandonment; the quotidian nature of office life raises serious questions of existential fortitude. Williams is keenly aware of the insidiousness lurking in the shadows of the everyday, ably spiking it with humor. He depicts the divided self of the parent, the distances necessary to protect our children, and the fallout of our deepest relationships. Williams sees the perversity in the mundane and dares readers to recognize the impact—and beauty—of time’s relentless movement.
With exquisite prose and a lacerating wit, Beautiful Days holds a mirror to the many absurdities of being human and refuses to let us look away.
About the Author
ZACH WILLIAMS is a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University, where he previously held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. His story "Trial Run" was one of three that won The Paris Review a 2023 ASME Award for Fiction. Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, he currently resides with his family in San Francisco.
One of Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of Publisher's Weekly's 10 Promising Fiction Debuts of Spring 2024
"Zach Williams is a brilliant, singular, deep, and deeply entertaining writer. You will continue to think about and feel these stories long after you have finished reading them. They will change you." —Jonathan Safran Foer, New York Times bestseller and author of Here I Am
"Beautiful Days is a remarkable collection. These stories are full of irony and absurdity, but are never sleight, glib or waggish. Zach Williams paints us into every story with quick, deft strokes and then unfolds, with a scarily confident hand, the rest of the canvas, full of surprises and truths and stuff we never imagined." —Percival Everett, Booker Prize finalist and author of James
"A brilliant debut." —Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Marriage Plot
"Beautiful Days brings a reader though strange and grounded lands on just the other side of reality. You will come through changed, shaken, thoughtful, and totally amazed." —Samantha Hunt, author of The Unwritten Book
"Every so often a writer comes along who seems to have access to something not quite rational, some tone or feeling that lies under the surface of things. Zach Williams is such a writer. His beautiful, disquieting stories are profound in the true meaning of that word—they go deep. He's a major talent, and this is an exciting debut." —Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears, Red Pill and Blue Ruin
“These stories begin in this world, the one we all inhabit and recognize, and then they travel to another place that’s eerie, unsettling, and beautiful. You can't predict where the stories will go—or who, or what, will be the half-visible presence there. Beautiful Days contains elegant mysteries, and the book stays in the mind long after you've read it.” —Charles Baxter, author of The Sun Collective
"These stories are elegies for days yet to arrive, which Zach Williams can somehow see coming. His stories are strangely infused with emotions that as yet have no names, because they are only now, in Beautiful Days, finding representation on the page. The visionary weirdness of the stories feels hauntingly attuned to our time. Because I read them headlong, one after the other, it was some time after closing the book before I began to grasp what had happened—I was still in them. They are not really short stories at all, but worlds impossible to leave." —Elizabeth Tallent, author of Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism
“Wide-eyed on the world and its often mystical ways, there’s a sparkle of magic and mystery in every elegant sentence of these wondrously curious, unsettling, and absolutely original stories. I devoured them with pure delight—and with awe for this writer’s singular imagination and talent." —Chang-rae Lee, author of My Year Abroad
“[A] sense of bizarro claustrophobia informs the stories in Williams’s debut collection.” —Publishers Weekly, *Most Anticipated Debut Fiction*