Posts Tagged ‘lydia davis’

So, hope you’re going okay. The end of 2011 was just a haze of activity, so excuse the absence. As a prize for sticking around/being good at Google/being a spambot, here’s a post to illustrate my mental declivities during the final months of 2011.

Running commentary on my reading of Madame Bovary:

Page 5: God, I can’t wait until Vronsky shows up.

Page 19: Where’s Vronsky?

Page 45: Where’s Vronsky?

Page 116: Okay, there’s a big party. I bet this is where Vronsky comes in.

Page 125: Where’s Vronsky?

Page 140: I just don’t know how someone with a name like Vronsky is going to show up in this tiny French town. It doesn’t make any sense.

Page 210: This book is practically over, and no Vronsky.

Page 267: OH MY GOD, TOTALLY WRONG BOOK. IT’S LIKE I HAVE NO BRAIN CELLS OR SOMETHING.

End: Pretty good book though.

Some day I shall regret being so open with all of you.

Hope you’ve all had a great year of reading. Looking forward to another.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how it seems to be baby season, how we have swiftly and surely reached the age where our family, friends and colleagues generate offspring without any scandal – indeed, it is expected. In response to this influx of infants, I found myself saying, ‘I don’t want to have a baby, but I don’t want not to have had a baby.’ And then I mentally slapped myself across the wrist, for I had just paraphrased Lydia Davis, whose Collected Stories I had been reading. (Not that I had done very much paraphrasing – many of Davis’s stories are renowned for their brevity.) But the ease with which the words left my mouth signalled to me just the genius of Davis’s plain rendering of people’s interiors. Instead of padding stories out, she trains her storytelling on dilemmas in an intimate, immediate way.

Not all of the situations Davis depicts are as straightforward as the one I parroted, though – time and time again her narrators painstakingly work through problems that seem a little left of the centre show; or they are at the beginning of their workings-out, taking an exploratory path that unearths only a proliferation of other avenues. The collection is remarkably assured right throughout its bulk – over 700 pages, almost 200 stories, the work of more than ten years. It’s a beautiful tome, as well, which  you can slot in right next to Lorrie Moore’s collected stories, if your library is arranged by Pantone colour.

My review of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis appears in this month’s Australian Literary Review, the first under the editorship of Luke Slattery. It comes with today’s edition of The Australian. You can see the contents list and the editorial here, or purchase online access to the day’s edition here. Enjoy!

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