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Can't and Won't
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 26 September 2017
Love the chutzpah Lydia Davis displays in experimenting so wildly with the short story form -but I find it so hard to love the stories themselves-she is fearless however and should be admired ...certainly worth a read
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on 24 November 2015
Book that wants to be very original. Some of the stories are not bad. Others can be immediatly forgotten.
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on 18 September 2016
Just get it! Wonderful!
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on 17 November 2015
nice easy reading
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on 24 March 2016
Just didn't like it.
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on 24 September 2014
This collection is, if nothing else, interesting. There are pithy pieces consisting of no more than a line, to at its longest, a confessional and touching bit of autobiographical fiction about the narrator and her relationship with her half-sister, entitled "The Seals", which is all of 27 pages, and possibly the most 'complete' story in terms of a conventional narrative.

That Davis is anything but conventional is immediately apparent in the form and content of most her stories. They range from letters to hotel managers and board directors, which reveal the characters of the letter writer, often disorganised, meandering and unfocused, to lists, one of which "Local Obits", literally contain the paras of obituaries. There is something touching and resonant about this random compiling, and pushes the envelope for what is deemed acceptable as narrative fiction, though the intent and effect is ambiguous. There are also pieces which look like work-in-progress story ideas and surrealistic dream sequences, the latter of which I must admit, capture in words rather well the often illogical yet vivid sequences that one encounters in dreamscapes. Elsewhere, Flaubert's correspondence is cited as the source for some of the pieces.

On the whole, this makes a really curious work, for a living author. The stories seem more like posthumous pieces collected to give a glimpse of the genius and working process of a departed writer, and one can't help but think that a more finished product should precede this collection. However, judging from a peek at Davis's earlier works, that is clearly not the case.
4 people found this helpful
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on 7 March 2016
Some books work better if you read them in one go this one is definitely one to pick up and read a little over many sittings as some stories are just a few lines long others several pages long. If you read too many together as I started to do they just lose any kind of sense.

From over 100 stories I suppose it would remarkable to like them all and indeed I found some quirky, amusing and thoughtful others trivial and absurd some so pointless I gave up on them.

A very mixed collection but worth a dip into.
One person found this helpful
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on 18 October 2017
like reading the dull diary of a bourgeois. no wit, insight or felicity. pilfered stories from literary greats. or one paragraph or very short stories with no point or persuasion. an egotistical venture that repays only the author. AVOID!
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on 12 May 2014
Some very interesting takes on short-story writing here. Gave me lots to think about and hopefully use in my own writing.
3 people found this helpful
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on 5 October 2014
There are a few interesting items, such as a list of reasons for not reading articles in the London Review of Books. I can see that she wanted to write about her sister, but it seems for herself, rather than for public consumption. The interesting bit about her sister comes earlier. Their parents were always "nag, nag, nag; harp, harp, harp" at her sister, who moved to the UK, worked for the disabled and eventually received an OBE from the Queen - her parents were in the audience. Immediately after the ceremony, they no longer nagged her to her face, just "carp, carp, carped" behind her back. Davis muses: "Thank God it happened finally. If only it hadn't taken a move to another continent. And how long will it last?" I'd like to hear more about the mother from hell.

There are several stories in the form of letters to public bodies, which reveal a writer tediously obsessed with detail and irrelevancies. They are like a shaggy dog story - OK, I get it, but it's a pain to read.
4 people found this helpful
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