Read Almost No Memory by Lydia Davis Online


Philosophical inquiry, examinations of language, and involuted domestic disputes are the focus of Lydia Davis’s inventive collection of short fiction, Almost No Memory. In each of these stories, Davis reveals an empathic, sometimes shattering understanding of human relationships....

Title : Almost No Memory
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312420550
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 194 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Almost No Memory Reviews

  • Ted
    2019-01-17 07:14

    Losing SleepA woman wanted the Cubs to win, and thought surely everyone was rooting for them, because they had not won since 1908. But her husband, a White Sox fan, assured her this was not so. This had come up before, but now it distressed her more. Both of them had grown up on the South Side, White Sox territory. She wondered whether she should not root for the Cubs because of this. Maybe they would just lose and she could forget about it.All right, that’s all the Davis-style fiction you’ll see in this review (except for her own). (view spoiler)[She seems to have no interest in sports as a story topic anyway. (hide spoiler)]Almost No Memory (AMN, 1997) is the second of the four books of short fiction in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – following Break It Down (BID, 1986). (view spoiler)[How is it that Collected Stories begins with Break It Down, when in fact Davis had published other short story collections prior to 1986?The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories was published in 1976, Story and Other Stories in 1985. What happened to these collections? I assume that Collected Stories either could not get permission to include these two books, or (more likely) that Davis was not interested in some of these stories becoming part of her collected works of short fiction.I say “more likely”, because at least the two “title” pieces from these earlier works (view spoiler)[(I have no idea what other stories were in those books) (hide spoiler)] are in fact in this collection: “Story” appears as the first piece in the Break It Down collection, and “The Thirteenth Woman” is the fifth in the collection reviewed here. (hide spoiler)]How does AMN compare to BID? AMN is longer by 25 pages, and contains almost twenty more stories – so, more of an emphasis on the very short pieces: 20 of the 51 stories fit on a page, and another 16 fit on two pages.Longer storiesOf the nine longest stories (six or more pages) the most curious is the twenty-five page behemoth Lord Royston’s Tour. In the Acknowledgements on the reverse of the title page of Collected Stories we find, “Lord Royston’s Tour was adapted from The Remains of Viscount Royston: A Memoir of His Life by the Rev. Henry Pepys, London, 1838.” And, indeed, Davis has discussed this several times in different interviews. The “Lord Royston” of the story is Philip Yorke, Viscount Royston (1784-1808). The book Davis’ story is “adapted from” contains correspondence that the young Viscount sent back to his father on a great journey he undertook in 1806, at the age of twenty-two.Of this story, Davis has said, “Nothing in the story was invented, but I did a lot of rearranging and combining or condensing of his material.” The format is almost that of a tiny novel, since there are about as many set-off headings to material (like chapter titles?) as there are pages. Most of the narrative describes Royston’s journey through Russia: the trials and tribulations (and sometimes pleasant interludes) he experienced. A brief excerpt:To WesterasIn Upsala he visited the Cathedral and found there a man who could speak Latin very fluently. The Rector Magnificus was not at home. He was detained some time in a forest of fir and birch by the axletree breaking. In general, he is annoyed by having to find separate lodgings for himself and his horses in each town.His Swedish has made the most terrible havoc with the little German he knows.In AboHe understands there is a gloom over the Russian court.St. Petersburg: Rubbers of WhistThe immense forests of fir strike the imagination at first but then become tedious from their excessive uniformity. He has eaten partridges and a cock of the woods. As he advances in Russian Finland he finds everything getting more and more Russian: the churches begin to be ornamented with gilt domes and the number of persons wearing beards continues to increase. A postmaster addresses him in Latin but in spite of that is not very civil …He is bored by the society of the people of St. Petersburg, where he plays rubbers of whist without any amusing conversation …On the “tour” Royston must deal with suffocating heat and almost unbearable cold, with sickness, hunger (being at times barely able to eat some of the victuals he can procure), and on occasion the perfidy of people he meets. The longest “chapter” is the last one, a three page recounting of the end: The End of the Tour: Shipwreck. In what sense of the word is this “story” fictional? I would say that recounting the actual experiences described by Royston by condensing, rearranging, and introducing her own words, would probably qualify as post-modern “fiction”. It is a very interesting, and somewhat ominous, story. And of course, by telling it in the third person, Davis has divorced it from presumably the first person of Royston’s letters. And at the same time, the narrative doesn't sound like a biographical recounting gleaned from Royston's letters; rather, it has the sound and feel of fiction.A few comments on some of the other longer stories.St. Martin. A stark story of a couple caretaking a country house for the better part of a year. They are both trying to write, but must get by on so little money that one wonders how they persevere. (And where is this St. Martin? I got the impression somehow that it was in France, but there are nine or ten different towns/areas in France with this name.)What Was Interesting. Loved it. Opening line, “It is hard for her to write this story, too, or rather she should say it is hard for her to write it well.”Glenn Gould. The writer loves watching reruns of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and comes to have a fixation on Glenn Gould when she learns that he also was a fan. The story seems to make unstated connections between the odd mental states of Gould and the narrator.Mr. Knockly. Very dark.Examples of Confusion. The funniest of the longer ones, arranged in 15 numbered sections of a paragraph or two. Example:14I was an unlikely person to invite to this party, and no one is talking to me. I believe the invitation was for someone else. All day the clock answers my questions about the time very well, and so, wondering what the title of that book was, I look at the face of the clock for an answer. Because it is almost the end of the day, I think it is almost the end of the week. That was such a peculiar thing to say to me, I do not believe it was said to me. I had such trouble finding this place, I believe I did not find it. I am talking to the person I came here to meet, but I believe he is still alone, waiting for me.The shorter piecesThe only way to really convey what Davis’ very short fiction is like is to quote it, but before I do some of that I’ll try to convey some general information.First, about half these stories have a first person narrator. In her previous book it was about a third.Many of the stories are definitely downers. These range from some which are mildly disturbing to a couple which are downright horrifying. There are over a dozen of these stories. Here are some of them, with my brief characterizations.The Thirteenth Woman disturbingA Natural Disaster horrifyingThe Rape of the Tanuk Women the title says it, though there’s a bit of magical realismLove almost repulsiveThe Fish Tank predatoryThe Cedar Trees grim – like a fairy taleSmoke dystopianThere’s also a set of pieces which could strike some readers as “soft downers”. Realistic pieces on the day-to-day trials and tribulations of two people living together, perhaps wife and husband. This type of story is one of Davis’ favorites it would seem.A few (or all) of Davis’ words from some of the stories I enjoyed most.The Other is: She changes this thing in the house to annoy the other, and the other is annoyed and changes it back, and she changes this other thing in the house to annoy the other, and the other is annoyed and changes it back, and then she tells all this the way it happens to some others and they think it is funny, but the other hears it and does not think it is funny, but can’t change it back.Foucault and Pencil. Hilarious. Begins, “Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand. Knocked over glass of water onto waiting-room floor. Put down Foucault and pencil, mopped up water, refilled glass. Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand.” Story continues with counselling session about “situation fraught with conflict”; narrator leaves session, goes to subway; instead of reading Foucault thinks about situation, recent argument concerning travel; “argument itself became form of travel, each sentence taking arguers on to next sentence, next sentence on to next, and in the end, arguers were not where they had started, were also tired from traveling and spending so long face-to-face in each other’s company”; after several subway stations narrator stops thinking about argument, takes up Foucault; Foucault in French hard to understand; narrator discovers why some sentences harder to understand than others; many reasons, for example, some long sentences understandable part by part, “but so long, forgot beginning before reaching end; … … … story continues onto a third page, and concludes “Put down Foucault and pencil, took out notebook and made note of what was now at least understood about lack of understanding reading Foucault, looked up at other passengers, thought again about argument, made note of same question about argument as before though with stress on different word.”On domestic tranquility - DisagreementHe said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her. This was about the screen door. That it should not be left open was her idea, because of the flies; his was that it could be left open first thing in the morning, when there were no flies on the deck. Anyway, he said, most of the flies came from other parts of the building: in fact, he was probably letting more of them out than in.And one of those disturbing, ominous ones - The OutingAn outburst of anger near the road, a refusal to speak on the path, a silence in the pine woods, a silence across the old railroad bridge, an attempt to be friendly in the water, a refusal to end the argument on the flat stones, a cry of anger on the steep bank of dirt, a weeping among the bushes.VerdictI love Davis’ short fictions, or whatever you want to call them. You never put one down in the middle, because by the time you’re at the middle you’re almost at the end. There is always time to read one, and then time to read one more. They’re like small pieces of candy, too small to feel guilty about eating.But unlike candy, you can consume them over and over; if you do, you find that some that didn’t impress at first reading (probably because you were distracted by a fly or a noise) do come into focus when a couple minutes are available for a re-read. No, these aren’t stories by Joyce, or Chekhov, Borges or Henry James. But they’re remarkably pleasing, anyway.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Previous review: The Periodic TableRandom review: Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract well, another review gone ... another book completely deleted from my libraryNext review: The Hundred DaysPrevious library review: Break It DownNext library review: Samuel Johnson Is Indignant["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-01-11 07:28

    Davis needs no introduction, nor pithy summary. These stories are mathematical riddles, little sentences twining and twirling around their own meaning. At the end of the collection, I felt as though trapped at the centre of a maze, as though reading them backwards would free me from the spiral of captivity. Her style is homely-cum-brainy, the self-awareness of a part-time egghead, part-time wife-and-mother. The shorter stories tickled me the most, the longer ones felt like forced digressions. How the collection is structured has something to do with this conflict. Short sharp shocks versus long periods of concentration and tightrope-walking. I became addicted to the ultra-concise form and wasn’t as willing to go the distance.New readers should pick up these little collections and leave The Collected Stories to the hardcore Davisites, whose brains resemble orange peels.

  • Dawn
    2018-12-20 06:08

    That's Lydia "Mother Fucking' Davis to you man.

  • Eli
    2018-12-28 07:08

    Yesterday, halfway through the collection, I sat and wrote a scathing review in the 'style' of Lydia Davis complaining about the following things: the fact that she wrote in such a cerebral way, the fact that she was so deliberately economical and detached, the fact that she was so reminiscent of Carver, how claustrophobic her writing felt at times. It was easy to mimic Davis' writing style, so it felt like a cheap shot and I didn't post it.Today I finished the book (I know, a strange way to approach a collection of short stories but I don't really like 'dabbling' in books) and although I won't retract any of my complaints, I will also add that I relished the stories that I read today. I felt a kinship with the author once I realised that a lot of her writing is autobiographical, but it was difficult to grasp that due to the fact that she appears to write from such an objective point of view, even when writing in the first person.I'm a huge fan of short stories, a fan of Carver, and I wanted to enjoy this book so it came as something of a disappointment to me when I didn't, perhaps resulting in me being overly critical of it. There were stories I loved (This Condition, A Man In Our Town, Fear, Examples Of Confusion) and that I hated (Lord Royston's Tour, The Center Of The Story, Foucault And Pencil, Meat, My Husband) and overall I'd say that I found both bored frustration and a sad sort of pleasure within the collection.

  • Lee Foust
    2019-01-02 07:20

    A book teaches you how to read it as you go along. Almost No Memory at first taught me enthusiasm with its freshness and perspicacity about some of the more off-center concerns of the everyday. Later, however, it began to teach me dis-attention and distraction. Often it reminded me of wading in shallow water--actually harder than swimming, and much less gratifying. It taught me to marvel occasionally at its beauty--but, annoyingly, I found there to be more beauty in the tales that were a bit longer than the others, the ones with more resemblance to the short story form as it has been practiced in the modernist era, and I had to wonder if I liked these texts better than the others because of their intrinsic worth as prose pieces or if I was merely responding to the familiarity of the forms and tropes of the genre that have become the guidelines of creative writing courses and the like. Ironically, perhaps, given the collection's title, even though I have only just finished reading the collection, I already have little memory of what exactly I have read. I feel rather more prevalently the miasma of my mixed feelings regarding the mixed bag of experimental prose, meditations, and slightly more alluring narratives, however non-traditional. Like the pieces themselves and their experiments in form, this is both a good and a bad thing.

  • Roy Kesey
    2018-12-19 01:26

    This review appeared in The Nervous Breakdown back in 2007:There is high genius here. Of the fifty or so stories, I will return over and over to perhaps ten of them. And even as regards the ones I won’t return to, it is most often a question not of fictional failure but of personal taste, the way someone else might not understand my enthusiasm for Hopkins, and I might not understand their enthusiasm for Swinburne, but we can still play buzkashi together, for example, and eat some bacon, if both of us happened to like buzkashi and bacon.There is no buzkashi in this book, and no bacon that I remember, but there are a fair number of inebriated and confused persons, and a vast number of untidy houses. This is one way Davis gives the book a sense of structure; another, more interesting way that she does so is by establishing a given number of formal options and alternating them regularly. I could make a list of those options (1st-person Relationship Pensées, Longer 1st-person Stories With Things That Almost Happen, 3rd-person Relationship Pensées, Stories About Writing, Intellectual Machines, Surreal Villages, Other [Realist], and Other [Not]) but then if I made another list ten minutes later there would be entirely different categories (Mirror Stories, He Said/She Said, Language as Paring Knife…) not because the stories had changed in that ten-minute interval but because I had, and this is perhaps an example of the book at its most structurally successful. However there were also moments when, before turning the page, I could correctly guess the Next Type of Story to Appear, and that is perhaps an example of the book at its least structurally successful, but even then there are workings of language and/or insight sufficiently extraordinary to make me forget that I had unhappily guessed right.It is in the surreal villages that my favorite stories take place--the women of “The Thirteenth Woman” and “The Cedar Trees,” the fog and teeth and cynical trees of “Smoke.” I say that, and then I change my mind and prefer the careful thought and deep intuition of “Pastor Elaine’s Newsletter”; then the sharp metamusings of “What Was Interesting”; then the smartly fragmented history of “Lord Royston’s Tour”; then realize that not even a robot could be left unstirred by “This Condition” or (in a totally, totally, totally different way) “Odd Behavior.” And I am not sure there is any greater sort of success.

  • Justin Evans
    2019-01-15 09:07

    I was disappointed by 'Samuel Johnson is Indignant,' which had a great title. I was even more disappointed by ANM, which did not have a great title, and had most of the bad qualities of the following volume (dull, generic short stories; fascination with a very narrow strip of human experience; over-use of the contemporary "talky but also intelligent because I went to a good school" style) with less of SJiI's best qualities (formal inventiveness; humor; Satie-esque irreverence). Not to say that ANM has none of that good stuff, just less. Now, please note that readers of Davis are guaranteed to divide over what is good about her. Some prefer the long, traditional short stories; some (me) prefer the inventive, who-gives-a-shit-if-this-isn't-comme-il-faut snippets, fables, parables and quotations. I suspect that I should focus on later Davis, rather than try to read her first collection, but if anyone reading this can tell me otherwise, please do. I'm willing to read one more, and I want it to be the one I'll like most.

  • anaïs
    2018-12-25 04:25

    Lydia Fucking Davis. Making me feel lonelier and less insane with every story. These are perfect to read while stuck in traffic or when you don't want to fall asleep too quickly.

  • Emily
    2019-01-11 07:09

    Between the considerable avoirdupois of Zola's Germinal and Perec's Life A User's Manual I needed to insert some verbal economy into my reading life. Lydia Davis's Almost No Memory was the perfect choice: subtly unlike anything else I have ever read, Davis takes the short story to new heights of concision, and does so in such a distinctive narrative voice that I walked around for days with a Davis-esque internal narrator commenting on my every move. Then I read a selection of these stories over again, out loud to David, and we had entire conversations in which both sides mimicked her tone. Her stories—she calls them stories; I might have been tempted to use the word "pieces" instead—are sometimes as short as half a page; they are crystal-like in their precision; yet they have a movement and a logic which are intensely compelling. I found myself re-reading many of the pieces in Almost No Memory, each time more slowly, to try to elicit their secrets, to figure out exactly how she was doing that—indeed, to discern what it was she was doing. Here, for example, is the entirety of her story "How He is Often Right":How He Is Often RightOften I think that his idea of what we should do is wrong, and my idea is right. Yet I know that he has often been right before, when I was wrong. And so I let him make his wrong decision, telling myself, though I can't believe it, that his wrong decision may actually be right. And then later it turns out, as it often has before, that his decision was the right one, after all. Or rather, his decision was still wrong, but wrong for circumstances different from the circumstances as they actually were, while it was right for circumstances I clearly did not understand.I love how the last sentence here, like the third line of a haiku, nudges the reader into a different, slightly unsettling perspective on what has gone before. The "reality" of the situation here is so contingent, so shifting, and the speaker's insistence that "his" decision was still wrong, just for circumstances different than the ones that turned out to be true, gives me a bit of vertigo when I think of making any decisions at all—territory intimately familiar to many speakers in this collection.Davis's stories often have to do with perceptual differences and difficulties, and the distance between people who are attempting to communicate. She also seems preoccupied with movement and stagnation, and how attempts at communication affect that movement—or fail to affect it. Here, for example, is one of my favorite stories, "In the Garment District":In the Garment DistrictA man has been making deliveries in the garment district for years now: every morning he takes the same garments on a moving rack through the streets to a shop and every evening takes them back again to the warehouse. This happens because there is a dispute between the shop and the warehouse which cannot be settled: the shop denies it ever ordered the clothes, which are badly made and of cheap material and by now years out of style; while the warehouse will not take responsibility because the clothes cannot be returned to the wholesalers, who have no use for them. To the man all this is nothing. They are not his clothes, he is paid for this work, and he intends to leave the company soon, though the right moment has not yet come.I think this may be one of the most perfect stories I have ever read, although I still don't totally understand why I feel that way. Despite its brevity, it has such flow and texture; the way the long, bustling sentence about the complex shop/warehouse dynamic is followed by the stillness of "To the man all this is nothing," for example. It's as if the ludicrous tension building between the shop and the warehouse, the speaker's (or reader's) incredulity, even anger, at this bizarre situation in which a man is getting paid to transport the same clothes back and forth day after day, suddenly just...breaks. The building frustration of the first sentences is suddenly dispelled: nothing need change about this daily routine, because of the still waters of the man's indifference. The last portion of the final sentence, that the man "intends to leave the company soon, though the right moment has not yet come," deposits the reader softly into a state of stasis which, though indefinite, may nonetheless break at any time.There are longer stories in Almost No Memory, including one I particularly loved involving a speaker who was once taken with the idea of marrying a cowboy. In some cases these longer pieces feel more like traditional "stories" to me, although in other cases, like the sad and excellent "Glen Gould," they maintain Davis's unique quality of laconically considering a situation while refusing to reach resolution. Several stories, in particular "The Center of the Story" and "What was Interesting" are metafictions (unsurprising considering that Davis was once married to Paul Auster), but, I thought, very successful in managing to carry emotional weight as well as being clever bits of writing-about-writing-about-writing.Although I began to form an idea of a "typical" Davis narrator by the end of the collection—a female college professor, prone to drink and quietly unhappy in her marriage—her range of subjects is actually much wider. From the grand tour of an eighteenth-century English lord, to more grotesque, fantastical events like those in "The Cedar Trees" ("When our women had all turned into cedar trees they would group together in a corner of the graveyard..."), Davis spreads her net wide. And yet, I think there's a reason I feel surprised at this realization: her odd magic works independently of her subject matter. Even at her most mundane, all her stories seemed a bit unnerving— and likewise, even at her most fantastical, her tone remains wry and analytical, observing well and following each thought through to its logical conclusion, which often turns out not to seem logical at all. One of my favorite examples of this happens in the longer story "St. Martin," in which Davis's speaker describes going for (and returning from) a walk. We would walk, and return with burrs in our socks and scratches on our legs and arms where we had pushed through the brambles to get up into the forest, and go out again the next day and walk, and the dogs always trusted that we were setting out in a certain direction for a reason, and then returning home for a reason, but in the forest, which seemed so endless, there was hardly a distinguishing feature that could be taken as a destination for a walk, and we were simply walking, watching the sameness pass on both sides, the thorny, scrubby oaks growing densely together along the dusty track that ran quite straight until it came to a gentle bend and perhaps a slight rise and then ran straight again.          If we came home by an unfamiliar route, skirting the forest, avoiding a deeply furrowed, overgrown field and then stepping into the edge of a reedy marsh, veering close to a farmyard, where a farmer in blue and his wife in red were doing chores trailed by their dog, we felt so changed ourselves that we were surprised nothing about home had changed: for a moment the placidity of the house and yard nearly persuaded us we had not even left.I mean, how quotidian is that, and how eerie? What a gorgeous scene. What a gorgeous collection.

  • Devi
    2019-01-19 05:05

    Ich habe das Buch gemocht und finde auch Lydia Davis Stil von Kurzkurzgeschichten interessant, aber meins isses ja irgendwie nicht auf Dauer.

  • Allan MacDonell
    2018-12-27 03:08

    Fiction is one of those arts that makes something out of nothing, and Lydia Davis’s Almost No Memory makes more something out of a balder nothing than any book I can remember ever having read. The blank piece of paper they started as is always within sight throughout every line of these fifty-plus stories. In execution, Almost No Memory is a collection of unconventional achievements, some only a few dozen words long, others stretching out to ten or so pages. Dialogue is nonexistent. Davis’s men, women and children receive very little commonly recognized characterization. Physical description and the assignment of telltale gesture are reserved for the handsome delineation of a pair of dogs in ‘St. Martin,’ a superb and melancholy evocation of nostalgia, an irresistible invitation to reflection, a connection to the shared experience of the human spirit placed directly within the reader’s grasp, a victory of the universal order for consumer and author alike, a deep-thinking effect that wins through again and again in Almost No Memory, even in the stories where the words seem to be fitted together with the logic of crossword puzzle clues and answers.

  • William
    2019-01-03 07:15

    This collection of stories simply did not work for me. It was as if Davis' first collection were a representational oil painting and this one is a cubist version of it. Th ese are really non-stories rather than slices of life.To me, the book is a very internal journey centered around questioning the nature of reality and the meaning of one's feelings. This abstract quality made it pretty tedious reading. I did like a few of the stories; "In the Garment District" and one or two others reminded me of the poetry of Stephen Crane, which I have always liked. One of the most linear stories (albeit in a surrealist way), "Lord Royston's Tour," utterly mystified me. I just did not get the point, if there was one.This is a very short book and it took me longer than I expected to get through it.

  • Elise
    2019-01-02 03:08

    Favorites"The Professor" — "A few years ago, I used to tell myself I wanted to marry a cowboy.""The Cedar Trees" — "When our women had all turned into cedar trees they would group together in a corner of the graveyard and moan in the high wind.""St. Martin" — "We were caretakers for most of that year, from early fall until summer.""Smoke" — "Hummingbirds make explosions in the dying white flowers——not only the white flowers are dying but old women are falling from branches everywhere——in smoking pits outside the city, other dead things, too, are burning——and what can be done?""The Great-Grandmothers" — "At the family gathering, the great-grandmothers were put out on the sun porch.""The Race of the Patient Motorcyclists" — "In this race, it is not the swiftest who wins, but the slowest."

  • Alison
    2019-01-12 05:09

    The short stories are like windows. How's she's seeing something, how you're seeing something all in the context of the story that becomes a fabulous overlay. I guess I'm just fascinated by the writing. I have never read anything written in a similar style. It feels so... genuine. At first, it felt a little childish, but as I read through more of the stories be became a language that turned simple observations into meaningful occurances."Affinity" sums everything up perfectly.

  • Mia
    2019-01-01 06:15

    Has Lydia Davis invented a new form?Is it just a form so old (fables and whatnot) it's new?I so love Lydia Davis but, reading a whole book, I realize I love her stories taken individually, in sips/steps. The textures of them--so uncommon--begin to feel flat when collected.

  • Karen
    2018-12-20 05:00

    More Lydia Davis awesomeness. Some real stunners in here, if you're into that kind of thing.

  • AJ Dreadfulwater
    2019-01-18 07:15

    I did not enjoy this book as much as the last book of hers I read, or maybe I enjoyed it evenly, the same or slightly less. Lydia Davis-isms.My favorite stories:-A Second Chance-Almost No Memory-Affinity"There may be no center. There may be no center because she is afraid to put any one of these elements in the center- the man, the religion, or the hurricane. Or- which is or is not the same thing- there is a center but the center is empty, either because she has not yet found what belongs there or because it is meant to be empty; there, but empty, in the same way that the man was sick but not dying, the hurricane approached but did not strike, and she has a religious calm but no faith" (pgs 39-40). "If only I had a chance to learn from my mistakes, I would, but there are too many things you don't do twice; in fact, the most important things are the things you don't do twice, so you can't do them better the second time" (pg 131)."There is his right leg over my right leg, my left leg over his right leg, his left arm under my back, my right arm around his head, his right arm across my chest, my left arm across his right arm, and my right hand stroking his temple. Now it becomes difficult to tell what part of what body is actually mine and what part his" (pg 185).

  • ambivalence avenue
    2019-01-13 09:06

    At a certain moment, in the pre-penultimate short story in Davis' novel ("Examples of Confusion"), I begun to wonder if Davis has lapsed into self-parody with such a line as "I am reading a sentence by a certain poet as I eat my carrot." I could, however, just be feeling tired by such a point. I never very good at judging the endings of things, like movies, because I may have nodded off, in some way, by such a time. At an art gallery, earlier today, I wrote down that all art could be understood as containers of significance. The hormonal gas pouring from the installation is a container of the ceaseless study needed to understand such things. Otherwise, why else would we-

  • Becca
    2019-01-06 05:21

    Purposeful, thoughtful, beautiful, but missing the oomph for me. I felt the shorter stories more than the longer, especially the objectively-phrased stories about relationships. I found myself skipping over some of the longers, waiting for their purpose or some kind of feeling. I love short stories because of the opportunity to jump into many puddles of an author's ideas, but I felt detached from many of these.

  • Maria Bache
    2019-01-08 03:13

    Noveller kan blive så korte, at de holder op med at være noveller med en stringent tråd, fordi de bliver til vignetter i stedet. Den slags kan være fint - men måske nok i mindre mængde. Her er der mange ultrakorte tekster, der formidler en følelse, ofte netop én. Jeg havde nok kaldt denne bog noget andet end noveller og er for irriteret på vignetterne til at kunne sætte pris på samlingens "rigtige" noveller.

  • Andy
    2019-01-17 04:19

    Lots of weird and kinda psychedelic and poetic short stories with meanings difficult to decipher in this one. Some stories are like journal entries of a dream. Others are kind of modern mellowdramas with odd points to them. Favorite: "The Race of the Patient Motorcyclists"

  • Marc Faoite
    2018-12-20 03:28

    I loved this collection. I've read more about Lydia Davis over the years than her work, which is probably the wrong way to approach any writer, but her stories in this collection live up to the hype and I am now officially a fan of her work.

  • Brendan Brady
    2018-12-19 03:07

    gets a tad bit repetitive, but there are some very subtle and deceptively profound reflections in these little stories. my favorite story was the third to last, "examples of confusion" :)

  • Megan Clark
    2018-12-28 07:12

    Good to know everyone suffers the same insecurities I do.

  • Sohum
    2019-01-15 04:22

    Favorite stories:**St. Martin**In the Garment DistrictWhat Was InterestingGo AwayMr. KnocklyThe Race of the Patient MotorcyclistsAffinity

  • Inna
    2019-01-19 06:18

    my favourite quote:What I feelThese days I try to tell myself that what I feel is not very important. I've read this is several books now: what I feel is important but not the center of everything. Maybe I do see this, but I do not believe it deeply enough to act on it. I would like to believe it more deeply.What a relief that would be. I wouldn't have to think about what I felt all the time, and try to control it, with all its complications and all its consequences. I wouldn't have to try to feel better all the time. In fact, if I didn't believe what I felt was so important, I probably wouldn't even feel so bad, and it wouldn't be so hard to feel better. I wouldn't have to say, Oh, I feel so awful, this is like the end for me here, in this dark living room late at night, with the dark street outside under the streetlights, I am so very alone, everyone else in the house asleep, there is no comfort anywhere, just me alone down here, I will never calm myself enough to sleep, never sleep, never be able to go on to the next day, I can't possibly go on, I can't live, even through the next minute.If I believed that what I felt was not the center of everything, then it wouldn't be, just one of many things, off to the side, and I would be able to see and pay attention to other things that were equally important, and in this way I would have some relief.But it is curious how you can see that an idea is absolutely true and correct and yet not believe it deeply enough to act on it. So I still act as though my feelings were the center of everything, and they still cause me to end up alone by the living-room window late at night. What is different, now, is that I have this idea: I have the idea that soon I will no longer believe my feelings are the center of everything. This is a real comfort to me, bacuase if you despair of going on, but at the same time tell youself that you despair may not be very important, then either you stop despairing or you still despair but at the same time begin to see how your despair, too, might move off to the side, one of many things.

  • Chip
    2019-01-17 09:16

    Reading this was an interesting experience, as many of the stories contained in this book were short, as in a page, or even just a paragraph, long. There is minimalist, and there's paring down a story to a fragile lacework. The author is excellent at this lacework, telling a story in the fewest words possible in most cases. Some readers will find this wonderful, but to me the suggestion of a story isn't a story. That's why I couldn't rate this book higher. My major pet peeve, as a (quasi)retired systems analyst, is the author's penchant for writing out "logic trees" as description of her character's thoughts... if a then b, or if b then c, but if a then not c, or b and c but not a, then a and c... a similar framework is found in many of the stories, and I quickly found myself speeding through the if/then/else-es. Use it once as a plot device and move on; don't keep revisiting it to the point of tedium. A caveat here, which may be important: I have ADD, and what seems like endless twists in a logic maze to me may be deeply insightful to everyone else, so if arguing with yourself is something you consider profound please read this book. There are stories which avoid the logic trees, and I found them compelling. "The Fish Tank" had a nice hook (sorry, couldn't resist) at the end, "Fear", "How He Is Often Right" all were satisfying, if terse, tales. My favorite of the book was "This Condition" which only a corpse could read without a quickening of the pulse and a flush in the cheeks. It is my new consummate example of the power of minimalism, an unleashing of the atomic power of the word. As a result, I will be keeping this book and making everyone else go buy their own (my highest praise, as the other two choices are to loan it out to friends (at risk of loss) or donate to the thrift store). Hope to read more of her atomic pieces soon, and less of the "caught in a vortex of recursive logic" ones... a remarkable talent, regardless!

  • Judith
    2019-01-13 03:06

    Well, such an odd one! I don't know what to make of it.This is the first collection of short stories I have read by Lydia Davis. I had no idea what it would be like, and if I had read the back cover that would not have given me much clue.Most of these stories are very short, and it is hard to call them "stories" at all. Many of them explore a state of mind, a thought, an observation, turning it this way and that and looking at it. A few stories are longer, some identifiable as a story, others more like a journal. Lord Royston's Tour, for example, is a collection of brief descriptions of Royston's experiences in each locality, ending in tragedy, all of it written economically and directly, with no hint of emotion. A recording of events. Affecting nonetheless.The Professor tells us about the narrator's dream of marrying a cowboy. Simple enough on the surface. It explores what a "cowboy" is, why she is interested. We find out how she wants to escape her own thinking at times. I suspect that Davis is compelled to write her thoughts to get them out, to free her from them, and that accounts for many of the little stories as well as this longer explanation.St. Martin is a rather disturbing story about caretakers of a house, who let so much go, even a dog. It too is told without emotion, just an accounting, perhaps the more devastating because of this. I couldn't wait to get to the end of it, to be done.Some of the little ones are funny, a little funny, a little odd. Meanderings of a unique mind.I couldn't help but think that if I were to write stories some of them would be like these, although not really like these. I am not a story-teller. I think and wonder, and odd thoughts cross my mind. If I were to write those down I might have another version of this book.

  • Ailsa Jo.
    2019-01-03 01:01

    Reading this book makes my tongue twist involuntarily. The lines of each story have turned around and around until they form an unbreakable circle of nothingness.   The stories are definitely amusing, especially in the way the dynamics of the different sexes, or between wife and husband are presented (the so-called power-balancing?).Also, strangely enough, what seems rather bland can turn out to be quite smooth and comforting, such as St. Martin and Lord Royston's Tour, the author apparently possesses this kind of soothing charisma. (Honestly speaking, these pseudo travel logs/ life journals are so much more enchanting than other enigmatic repetitions of words and ideas.)   However, I do feel Davis is not spicy enough for me, for her power lies in her subtlety alone. Perhaps this form of "banality" is intentionally planned by her, as already hinted in the book title. Another reason of my rejection is that maybe I'm not THERE yet. I'm not mature enough to fully appreciate a grown woman's ideas and concepts of life. All that sense of tranquility and calmness out of daily chaos is already suffocating, not to mention the air of indifference and the current of despair running through each seemingly placid moment .   By the way, I haven't read much of Woolf, so I can't tell if Davis resembles her properly, I just have this vague idea of a similarity in style.   A passage from "Smoke", which becomes a perfect depiction of the climate as for now. "Too many things to name are gone and we are left with this clowning earth, these cynical trees—shadows, all, of themselves. And we, too, are beyond help. "

  • Matt
    2018-12-28 09:18

    At her best, Lydia Davis creates strange little worlds that revolve around their own logic, a logic both strange and beautiful. A town with 12 woman, and a 13th who doesn't fully exist; a town where the woman become trees; an analysis of what a man means when he tells his lover to "go away" - these all make sense in the context of Davis' structuring, even though you'd sound crazy trying to describe them as stories. Her amazing use of language is displayed in stories like "The Outing," where 8 brief, successive images make for an almost haunting display of a single fight. My issue with Davis is that her longer pieces are pretty boring, with more characters talking about things than anything actually happening. Then there are her circular philosophical short-short pieces, which take a single phrase and add clause after clause of modifications with words and phrasings being used over and over - they're interesting, but that's about it. Basically, when she's good, she's damn good, and for when she's not, well, I guess it's beneficial that most of her stories are so short, so you don't really waste any time reading them. "The Mice," The Cedar Trees," "Go Away," "Fear," "Examples of Confusion" - I'll be reading these all multiple times, just to appreciate the writing, and possibly to do the writerly job of stealing things. The rest I'll let the dust cover over.