Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lydia Davis’s mysterious, uncomfortably intimate short stories are often read as the working out on paper of her own very ordinary difficulties in managing life. When I suffered my flat tyre and her book saved the morning, I thought she would be pleased, because of the ordinariness of the problem she had solved, which nevertheless is exactly the kind of problem that, as one after another accumulates in a day or over a week, can come to make you feel that life is too overwhelming in its minutiae, too mundanely cumbersome to bear. I think one of the reasons her work is so powerful – though before this collection she was mostly known as ‘a writer’s writer’, someone you were introduced to in an undergraduate lit class if you were lucky, but more likely in an MFA programme – is this gift of making our unconscious or semi-conscious struggles visible, in stories that are rarely longer than a page or two.

Clancy Martin at the LRB

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