Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Davis. Show all posts

22 February, 2017

Lydia Davis, "The Seals"

"...fat blueberry pancakes..."
When the story was first published in The New York Times, it was titled "Everyone Was Invited." It's a first-person account of the death of an older sister and a father just three weeks apart. The father was old and his time had come but the sister had been stricken with a brain tumor. The story is all in "telling" mode and is told during a train ride. There are several themes. "You get older and see things more clearly..." Another theme, for me, is the stages of mourning that people experience. And, another concept, "Maybe you miss someone even more when you can't figure out what your relationship was." There's a lot to think about with that line. That's the beauty of Davis's writing. She examines everything minutely and intensely until something of immense meaning is cajoled out of that examination and the reader finds it applies to her. Another theme or idea that is picked at, like a hangnail, is the idea that family dynamics are fluid and shifting and ever confusing. Another truth that I don't believe most people acknowledge out loud but yet experience, "Once she was gone, every memory was suddenly precious, even the bad ones, even the times I was irritated with her, or she was irritated with me." While Davis explores these emotional concepts, she never forgets the visual and tactile, "Those treetops on a hill in the far distance were even with us for awhile, but when I looked again, they were behind us, though not far behind." The reader feels she is riding alongside, looking out the window, with the narrator. 

"The Seals" is included in Lydia Davis's collection, can't and won't (stories). I can't recommend this book enough. I love her writing and love hearing her read her work aloud.

30 November, 2016

Lydia Davis, "After Reading Peter Bichsel"

The first-person story shows the narrator in Austria observing a "fast eater" in Café Central in Salzburg. The author, Lydia Davis, encourages, invites, gives permission for the reader to slow down and observe with the narrator her surroundings. The narrator is, in turn, encouraged to then tell the story "that there was not much to tell, because, really, so little happened" because she'd been reading an author, Peter Bichsel, who, in his stories, often states, "There are stories that are hardly worth telling."

While not much happens, the story puts the reader right there in the restaurants, lunch and dinner. We never learn much about the object of the narrator's attention, but we see and think through the narrator's eyes. My favorite aspect of the story is how it slowed my reading and I focused on each word, each observance, each nuance. I also enjoyed traveling around Salzburg with the narrator.

"After Reading Peter Bichsel" is longer than most of Davis's stories, almost ten pages long. It was first published in the Paris Review and then included in the 2017 Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses

26 March, 2015

Lydia Davis, "The Art of Fiction No. 227"

Interview with Lydia Davis, Johanne Fronth-Nygren and Andrea Aguilar. Stories specifically mentioned: "The Cows," "The Old Dictionary," "Glenn Gould," "Writing," "The Letter to the Foundation," "The Two Davises and the Rug," "Wife One in Country," "New Year's Resolution," "The Meeting," "Cornmeal," "Lord Royston's Tour," and "Head, Heart."

Her discussion about translating, particularly Proust's Swann's Way, and the Germanic and Latinate vocabulary in the English language is revelatory. I'd never thought about word choices in just that way. undersea/submarine, underground/subterranean, all-powerful/omnipotent

Some of the most helpful, for me, statements by Lydia Davis in the interview.

"As soon as you select the material from your life, and arrange it and write it in a stylized manner, it's no longer really identical to that life and that person."

"If I avoid metaphor, and if I have to think of a reason why, it may be that I don't want to distract from the one thing that I'm concentrating on, and a metaphor immediately does that."

"No, I don't think symbolically at all."

"Then comes this vital comma. It just shows you how important a little punctuation mark is, how much power it has."

Published in issue 212, Spring 2015, of The Paris Review.

18 August, 2013

Lydia Davis, "The Two Davises and the Rug"

Two neighbors whose indecisiveness is not known by the other until one decides, then un-decides, to sell a decorative rug. The story shifts POV three times from the first Davis woman to the first Davis man and then to the husband of the Davis woman. "She had grown a little tired of it...," then, "he thought it might not look good in his house...," and, "But her husband thought it was too bright."

The story ends with the Davis woman thinking that maybe she and the Davis neighbor should share the rug until one them makes a decision. In her mind, she turns over the decision to her male neighbor Davis. Who values it more? Or, who loves it more? Who wants it most? Priced from $10 to $50. Once the rug is re-priced by the person in charge of the fund raiser, the Davis woman sees the rug in a new light and thinks she might not want to sell it.

"The Two Davises and the Rug" is in the September 2013 issue of Harper's Magazine.

11 July, 2010

Lydia Davis, "Alvin the Typesetter"

"Alvin the Typesetter" by Lydia Davis, written in 1st person POV, is one of her longer stories, 6 pages, included in her Collected Stories volume, issued in 2009. Originally published in her collection Samuel Johnson is Indignant, 2001. The story takes place in the fall of 1980 when Reagan was elected president. Alvin, estranged from wife and kid, and the narrator work as typesetters for a weekly newspaper always on the verge of bankruptcy. "Alvin sets ads." Blue collar workers with bigger dreams, albeit Alvin is unrealistic, talentless, and self-deluded. Nevertheless most of the office workers tend to like him. The narrator, a violinist, presumably somewhat talented, performed excerpts from The Messiah. The story captures the mood of the 80s for people who disagreed with Reagan's trickle-down and "...our dread of its (the govt.) repressive spirit." The first-person POV is of the violinist, not Alvin.

"Alvin the Typesetter," was read aloud by David Rakoff for Symphony Space in NYC.

07 November, 2009

Lydia Davis, several stories and interview

Read "Story," "Almost Over, What's the Word," "A Position at the University," "The Fears of Mrs. Orlando," and "A Different Man" by Lydia Davis. These stories are all little gems.

An interview with Lydia Davis with's Kate Moses.

29 September, 2009

Lydia Davis, "The Cats in the Prison Recreation Hall"

First thing this morning I read a piece of flash fiction by Lydia Davis, "The Cats in the Prison Recreation Hall" which is included in the book, Flash Fiction Forward. I think this story might help me clearly see a story with a beginning, middle and end. The story is odd and quirky and operates on a couple of levels.

(I'll come back to it later.)