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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis [Paperback]

Lydia Davis
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Feb 2014

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis is the complete collection of short fiction from the world-renowned Lydia Davis.

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE 2013.

'Big rejoicing: Lydia Davis has won the Man Booker International prize. Never did a book award deliver such a true match-winning punch. Best of all, a new audience will read her now and find her wit, her vigour and rigour, her funniness, her thoughtfulness, and the precision of form, which mark Davis out as unique.

Daring, excitingly intelligent and often wildly comic [she] reminds you, in a world that likes to bandy its words about, what words such as economy, precision and originality really mean. This is a writer as mighty as Kafka, as subtle as Flaubert and as epoch-making, in her own way, as Proust.

A two-liner from Davis, or a seemingly throwaway paragraph, will haunt. What looks like a game will open to deep seriousness; what looks like philosophy will reveal playfulness, tragicomedy, ordinariness; what looks like ordinariness will ask you to look again at Davis's writing. In its acuteness, it always asks attentiveness, and it repays this by opening up to its reader like possibility, or like a bush covered in flowerheads.

She's a joy. There's no writer quite like her' Ali Smith

'What stories. Precise and piercing, extremely funny. Nearly all are unlike anything you've ever read' Metro

'I loved these stories. They are so well-written, with such clarity of thought and precision of language. Excellent' William Leith, Evening Standard

'Remarkable. Some of the most moving fiction - on death, marriage, children - of recent years. To read Collected Stories is to be reminded of the grand, echoing mind-chambers created by Sebald or recent Coetzee. A writer of vast intelligence and originality' Independent on Sunday

'A body of work probably unique in American writing, in its combination of lucidity, aphoristic brevity, formal originality, sly comedy, metaphysical bleakness, philosophical pressure and human wisdom' New Yorker

'Davis is a high priestess of the startling, telling detail. She can make the most ordinary things, such as couples talking, or someone watching television, bizarre, almost mythical. I felt I had encountered a most original and daring mind' Colm Toibin, Daily Telegraph

Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and seven story collections, the most recent of which was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government for her fiction and her translations of modern writers including Maurice Blanchot, Michel Leiris and Marcel Proust.


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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis + Can't and Won't + The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore
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Product details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; With New Intro edition (27 Feb 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0241969131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241969137
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Big rejoicing: Lydia Davis has won the Man Booker International prize. Never did a book award deliver such a true match-winning punch. Best of all, a new audience will read her now and find her wit, her vigour and rigour, her funniness, her thoughtfulness, and the precision of form, which mark Davis out as unique.

Daring, excitingly intelligent and often wildly comic [she] reminds you, in a world that likes to bandy its words about, what words such as economy, precision and originality really mean. This is a writer as mighty as Kafka, as subtle as Flaubert and as epoch-making, in her own way, as Proust.

A two-liner from Davis, or a seemingly throwaway paragraph, will haunt. What looks like a game will open to deep seriousness; what looks like philosophy will reveal playfulness, tragicomedy, ordinariness; what looks like ordinariness will ask you to look again at Davis's writing. In its acuteness, it always asks attentiveness, and it repays this by opening up to its reader like possibility, or like a bush covered in flowerheads.

She's a joy. There's no writer quite like her.

(Ali Smith) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and seven story collections, the most recent of which was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government for her fiction and her translations of modern writers including Maurice Blanchot, Michel Leiris and Marcel Proust.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This is a lovely book, nice and thick (733 pages of text), and with countless short pieces which you can dip and out of. For while many of the stories are a few pages long, quite a few of them are just a paragraph or two, or even just a few lines, expressing depth with concision as with a Japanese Haiku.

The stories cover a vast range of subjects and it would be impossible to even begin to categorise them. A few samples might cover short portraits of a relationship, jury service, motorcycling, journeys, music and just about anything else you'd like to think of - its probably somewhere in there. The stories all share a rather quirky outlook on life which challenges the customary way of looking at things.

As I read this collection, I realised that you have to read several at a time in order to appreciate Lydia's unique view on life. She has the ability to look at things from a new angle so that her readers suddenly see the strangeness of things they usually take for granted.

All Lydia's stories stimulate reflection in oen way or another. They can't be taken at face value, but have to be reflected on. The blanks have to be filled in. And yet, despite the brevity of many of the stories, they are not poetry. They are precise, elegant pieces, each of which has at least a tiny narrative flow to them which qualifies them as stories and nothing more pretentious.

I am pleased to have this book on my bedside table and will dip in and out of it for some time to come. It would make a great gift for any reader as I'm sure anyone would find something of interest in it.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The worst review I've ever read 9 May 2010
Format:Hardcover
Every bad review I've ever read has involved a litany of statements such as 'this is not a short story!', 'this doesn't do what a book is supposed to do!'! What is a book 'supposed' to do? Instruct and delight? Have a beginning, middle and end? Welcome to the 21st (and 20th!) century.

So yes, her stories are 'tedious, obsessive ramblings pointlessly replay the mundane' -- that's the point, and that's why they're so good. Davis very well knows what a story is, what a book is 'supposed' --traditionally-- to do: she's translated Proust. What these stories 'do' is problematise the idea of literary form and in doing so present a complete internal portrait. By 'replaying' the mundane, Davis creates art. Of course repetition -- both of the mundane and as a formal device -- highlights and interrogates what it repeats. Davis fits human emotion into the emotionless: complaint letters, 'Letter to a Funeral Parlor', academic studies, 'We Miss You: A Study of Get-Well Letters From a Class of Fourth-Graders' and 'Helen and Vi: A Study in Health and Vitality', lists, and other 'mundane' forms. Her stories are linguistically mathematical, many exploring the permuatations of reaction, experience, and situations: 'When he calls me either he will then come to me, or he will not and I will be angry, and so I will have either him or my own anger, and this might be all right, since anger is always a great comfort, as I found with my husband'; or ways of being, creation of the self or selves: 'Shall I know the classics, like K.? Shall I write letters by hand, like B.? Shall I write 'Dearest Both,' like C.?'

But unlike many 'experimental writers', Davis' prose is accessible. Perhaps this is what frustrates her critics: the extreme accessibility, repetitive language, simple vocabulary.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An undervalued American postmodernist 23 Sep 2010
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
'The Collected Stories' contains all the stories from the separate volumes 'Break It Down' (1986), 'Almost No Memory' (1997), 'Samuel Johnson Is Indignant' (2001) and 'Varieties of Disturbance' (2007) - nearly two hundred stories in all. Almost all of them are rather short, and some take the form of a single sentence or short paragraph: a form that more closely resembles the aphorism than the short story as traditionally conceived.

Lydia Davis has become known in some spheres mainly for these extreme condensations, but to suggest that they are typical of the texts collected here would be a serious distortion. Davis can work perfectly well at much greater length - she is the author of a highly regarded novel - and the ultra-short pieces here are in the end as typical or atypical as the handful of conventionally longer pieces ('Helen and Vi: A Study in Health and Vitality' runs to nearly 50 pages, but is by far the longest story here: only a small number exceed a dozen pages). More genuinely characteristic are texts of two to three pages: still very short, but for a writer concerned with economy of means and concision of expression, surprisingly ample spaces in which to delineate character or explore an idea.

Davis is sometimes cited as a leading American postmodernist writer, but in her case the term 'postmodernist' seems more than usually inadequate. Certainly one can see the influence of Beckett, Kafka, and Proust (whom Davis has translated); and there are stylistic similarities to Donald Barthelme and Walter Abish.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging,funny and readable
Amazing how vitriolic the one-star reviews have been so far! This book delighted me-and I can only imagine it will gain in popularity. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Ms S. J. Clement
2.0 out of 5 stars Stories
I failed to finish this book of stories. I found it tedious in the extreme. Some reviews extol this book as good literature but maybe they are comparing it to American books. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Walter N
1.0 out of 5 stars Such a disappointment
Being a great fan of short stories and this collection being heralded and lauded I sort it out and bought it a few years ago. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dabby Northmead
1.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
Amazing, that is, that some credulous poseurs gave this a prize.

I bought it, from a bookshop (OK, I was looking for the final item of a 3 for 2 deal) for my wife, on... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. S. Atherton
5.0 out of 5 stars A study in indirectness.
A delicious insight into the tortured way out minds work. The way we often don't say what we think and more often are confused by our own emotions. Read more
Published 7 months ago by C M Leon
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
she is really a special and unique writer. Highly recommended. It's a long book so i read it in short bursts.
Published 11 months ago by ms ellekay
5.0 out of 5 stars The Poetic Prose of Lydia Davies
Lydia Davies short stories are a combination of poetic prose and observational insights. Her pieces range from two lines to several pages. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Elizabeth star
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
An interesting writer, very idiosyncratic. The stories aren't like anything else I've encountered. There is a strange beauty to a lot of them.
Published 12 months ago by James Loader
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a word to much, the essence of a storie
I love literature, am a big fan of books, and learned Lydia Davis when she won the Man Booker International Prize. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Pierre Brewee
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing collection
It was everything the blurb promised: unlike most short stories one has read - some just two lines long. Penetrating observations on life and behaviour. Humour in plenty too. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Colin
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