The Quick and the Dead, Joy Williams, Rose wine, Achilée
by Kim Kent
3 years ago
NOTE: THIS WINE SHOULD BE SERVED VERY VERY CHILLED. At least 24 hours in the fridge should do it. Open the bottle in your sink. If it fizzes—sluff off the bubbles as they begin to slow, with a rag or your hand, to halt the momentum of the fizz-out.
It’s hard to say what The Quick and The Dead by Joy Williams is. It is a novel—there are several narratives, which converge and diverge, told from many perspectives, human and creature alike. There is presumably a protagonist, Alice, a motherless adolescent budding eco-terrorist, as the back cover simplistically informs us. But a good book explains itself as much as it needs to be explained. Williams instructs us—In her world we “don’t use reason without imagination” and what unfolds exists in the watery in-between state where “what’s possible is neither dead nor alive.” I take notes when I read to help explain to myself, later, what I’ve read. Here’s some of what I wrote: “brief, ferocious wind,” “savage glitter,” “unwaxed, uncombed,” “cosmic parole,” “quickening,” and “runic.” If there is a mysterious secret meaning to this book, and I suspect there could be, the more I read it the more I realize that answering exactly what that is doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is reading it. What matters is being in the place we’re in.
I’ve been told that Rudolph Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and clairvoyant, once called the plant Yarrow better than God. Achillée means yarrow in french and the Dietrich family has dedicated their winery in Alsace to this munificent vegetal force—nature knows best. Though I’ve never met Joy Williams and I can almost say for certain she’s probably never had this “Rose wine” from Achillée, I think she would agree with their guiding principle. The wine we’re drinking this month is made entirely from plums—Victoria plums grown on the winery. But can it even be called wine if it isn’t made from grapes? Yes. It’s bright, tart, funky and very unfiltered. You’ll even get hints of nutty pit. Easy-drinking, surprisingly complex, and at 5.5% alcohol you can drink this whole hard-to-classify bottle while reading this whole hard-to-classify novel that I, for one, found completing absorbing.
Achillée makes wine using old methods like foot-trodden maceration. In a photo on the winery’s facebook page, you’ll see smiling wine interns trodding away like they’re running a marathon through a swamp of jam, or a pit of snakes. It looks lively. Which is exactly what The Quick and The Dead is for me—alive. At minimum with sharp, ravishing language that stings like I imagine the sharp edge of a plum pit on a bare foot might, and at its best with writing that embodies our human fear of nothingness, our attempt to hold off its advance with a ‘savage glitter.’
Joy Williams is the author of many books which have been nominated for many prizes. She was born in 1944 and lives in Florida and Arizona. If you liked The Quick and the Dead, try reading State of Grace. If you liked it but found it slightly unfathomable, read her short story collection, Visiting Privilege, for some absolutely stunning realism.
Achilée has been growing grapes organically since 1999 and biodynamically since 2003. Their winery is made of straw. Seriously. There isn’t anything quite like this plum wine ( called “Rose Wine”) but they make a 50% Sylvaner 50% Riesling blend that is all apple—crisp, raw and baked at the same time with just enough acid and lemon zest. A between seasons white wine, or a wine to drink while reading William’s bone-dry short stories.