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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lydia Davis's first collection of stories
This book collects most of Lydia Davis's early stories, including those published before 1986 and now unavailable in their original form. As a result, it contains work written over a period of at least ten years, and gives a good idea of Davis's range.

Davis is known as the one-time partner of the American postmodernist writer Paul Auster: as the translator of...
Published on 14 Sep 2010 by Paul Bowes

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3.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest
Read literary reviews in newspapers about this writer, but found the stories rather bland and pointless. Glad I didn't buy the longer book.
Published 16 months ago by d page


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lydia Davis's first collection of stories, 14 Sep 2010
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Break It Down (Paperback)
This book collects most of Lydia Davis's early stories, including those published before 1986 and now unavailable in their original form. As a result, it contains work written over a period of at least ten years, and gives a good idea of Davis's range.

Davis is known as the one-time partner of the American postmodernist writer Paul Auster: as the translator of Proust; and as an editor of significance. It doesn't seem unfair to suggest that all three aspects of her experience reveal themselves in her fiction. There is the editor's propensity for concision and clarity. There is a certain coolness to the prose, as though the events and emotions of each story are objects being examined through a lens with a view to transcription into a foreign medium that must be handled with care. Finally, there is the postmodernist's self-awareness, consciousness of the role of story, and acceptance of the gnomic, fragmentary and incomplete.

It may appear from this that Davis is a clinical, formalist, academic writer. In fact, she possesses a dry wit, and her close analyses of states of mind - particularly those states that involve confusion, unhappiness, and failure to divine the feelings and motives of others - are far from self-indulgent. Stories that seem autobiographical in origin are balanced by others in which the writer disappears completely behind a persona, or a character whose independent life is offered without overt comment. There is a persistent vein of unease beneath the domesticity and absence of dramatic event.

The thirty-four stories range in length from twelve pages to a mere paragraph. Davis has since made something of a reputation as a 'minimalist' writer. Whether these paragraph-length texts are 'stories' is something of a red herring. Their seriousness is suggested by the fact that the author clearly handles greater length and more traditional form easily, and has in fact written a well-regarded novel. One of the merits of these stories is their refusal to outstay the thought that gave birth to them. There is no pointless elaboration here.

Davis's influences are obvious enough: readers of Donald Barthelme and Walter Abish will find a similarity of tone here and there, and I suspect the figure of Samuel Beckett lurks in the background, along with certain French fictionists. However, Davis's sensibility is her own. I read this collection with real pleasure and will be investigating further.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest, 19 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Break It Down (Paperback)
Read literary reviews in newspapers about this writer, but found the stories rather bland and pointless. Glad I didn't buy the longer book.
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Break It Down
Break It Down by Lydia Davis (Paperback - 16 Sep 2008)
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