"Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!"
"'Want a pop?' she said. Alice shook her head. 'Sure?' the woman said. 'It's mostly fruit juices.'
I want...a scar, Alice thought. A scar that would send shivers up peoples' spines but would not elicit pity. She didn't want that kind of scar" (Willaims 7)
Welcome to stream-of-consciousness. My opinion on this type of narration has always been an emphatic "meh". I've read pieces of stream-of-consciousness I enjoy, pieces that I despise, and never really managed to get a grounded yay or nay for the technique. Joy Williams dives unapologetically forward, committing completely to this style. At first, I was tentative to join her; sometimes stream-of-consciousness is confusing and tedious. However, the quoted section above marks the moment I agreed whole-heartedly to go along for the ride.
Instead of viewing stream-of-consciousness as an alternative to more logical narration, I now see it as ultra-logical. Williams'details and sudden veers "off subject" are more true-to-life than writing that portrays each character's thoughts and dialogue as being purely topical. Those among us who are easily distracted (and even those among us who aren't overly so) will vouch for the fact that there are times someone may offer you a soda, and your first thought will not be concerning the soda's flavor or your thirst, but, hey, it'd be really great if you knew how to juggle. Now, the leap you made may seem completely random if spoken aloud, and maybe it makes sense in your mind (well, you wanted three sodas, but only have two hands, and it would just be pretty impressive if you could ask for three and then start to juggle the cans...) or maybe not, but the fact is, our minds are all over the place. I think the descriptions of each character are so skilled and in-depth because we're reading thoughts that, even in other forms of literature, we would not be privy to. This is human analysis on a different level, managing to be spontaneous without being random.
See what other people have to say about the first third of The Quick and the Dead