‘Sundaes at the Tipping Yard’ by Lara Williams

This is a story about “a girl who quits her job, her boyfriend, her flat and does a Creative Writing MA” only to find that she can only write about girls who quit the aforementioned to do Creative Writing MAs. It’s written in the second person, which I always love, and it has a kind of hopeless rhythm to it as the narrator consistently succeeds at nothing but mediocrity. It’s a story about gentle disappointments, about washing diazepam down with warm white wine and “thinking about the air.” If it sounds navel-gazey, that’s because it absolutely is – and I love it for that exact reason. Returning to the story to write this, I was shocked to discover that it – like many others in the collection – is incredibly short: just six pages, and it has left as lasting an impression on me as any novel. It reminds me of some of my favourite recent books about lost millennial women: The Idiotby Elif Batuman, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (in fact, everything by Sally Rooney), All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg and many of the stories from Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands.

Published in Treats, Freight Press, 2016

‘Treats’ by Lara Williams

“Treats could save a person,” the protagonist in this story, Elaine, thinks. But her life is filled with empty pizza boxes, birthdays unacknowledged by those around her, a job making coffee and filing papers for others. Elaine tries to look on the bright side though: her pleasure when the man at the sandwich shop throws a French tart in her bag, the joy she gets from anonymously buying a cinema ticket for the young woman in the queue behind her. Still, you realise Elaine’s just scrunching up her eyes, not wanting to see how bad the big picture is. And because she is so deserving of something more, you find yourself wanting to scrunch your eyes up too. I came across ‘Treats’ in Best British Short Stories 2017 (it is also in Williams’ debut collection). This is the story that has stayed with me the most from this year’s anthology, hovering around like a vulture.

From Treats (Freight Books). Also available in Best British Short Stories 2017 (Salt). You can find Lara Williams’ website here