Poetry by William Carlos Williams
Williams was foremost a poet, but the novels are of great interest. They are important books in their own right, because they present with a poet’s insight, and in a prose style of striking originality, aspects of American life which few other writers have approached. White Mule and its sequels, In the Money and The Build-Up, form a trilogy, the saga of the Stecher family, but each volume is a complete novel by itself. Joe Stecher and Gurlie, his wife, are a young couple of European origin settled in New York at the turn of the century and working to make a place for themselves in the new world. White Mule is the story of Joe’s inner struggle between love of fine craftsmanship (he is a printer by trade) and Gurlie’s ambition to get ahead, to have him get “in the money.” But it also the story of the awakening consciousness of their children; the real heroine is the baby Flossie––she had a kick like “White Mule” whiskey––whose birth begins the book. Everything revolves around the baby and she is surely unique in literature. Dr. Williams was a pediatrician, and without sentimentality he makes of this little being, who cannot even talk, a full-scale, three-dimensional personality.