Reviews

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

casparb's review against another edition

Go to review page

UNLIKE the lot of them , entirely adore , it's lydia davis! dishing lydia

sebp's review against another edition

Go to review page

Not really interested in reading 700 pages of short stories, but I found it as a way to re-think the short story and its subcategories.

Skimming through most of Davis's short stories in this collection makes it quite clear that a fair chunk of them are autofiction, and typically thinly veiled recounts of events, many of which find the narrator in strife with some friend or family member. At times she uses vaguely realistic names and sometimes opts to replace them with letters like 'X' and 'Y'. I can imagine Davis in the moment of the argument or confrontation, thinking to herself, I'll let my readers decide who was in the right in this situation. 

There are also many repetitive stories which use the same conventions and playful syntactic structures, where Davis is reflectively considering something about herself, or she is comparing two things. She chooses to focus on the mundane, clarifying in every possible way what she is and what she is not, what she believes and what she does not believe, etc, etc, making sure to cover every single scenario. Some of the one-pagers are really good though, like the Mildred one, the feeling like an old man, ones that aren't full of nauseating, verbose interiority.

erboe501's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

These are some of the best pieces of writing I've ever read. I tried to describe Davis's style to my mom: rhythmic phrases/sentences that cascade and build and that are easy to flow through, but that also deserve a very slow, careful read on a word by word by comma level. She is definitely one of my favorites now, and I want to read the rest of her oeuvre.

A few of my favorite stories:
"French Lesson 1: Le Meurtre"--which shows how clever Davis is with turns of phrase and playing with words, circling back around and around to mine words for all they're worth and more.
"What an Old Woman Will Wear"--for how Davis writes about the realities and dissatisfactions of womanhood, for women "past their prime."
"Old Mother and the Grouch"--for the absurdity and humor and sharply drawn details of the characters that make them feel uniquely individual and of a type.
"Traveling with Mother"--for how short but packed her stories can be.
And so so many more!

lisawhelpley's review against another edition

Go to review page

2.0

These stories didn't really interest me.

bobbygw's review against another edition

Go to review page

1.0

Soulless stories, lacking heat, heart and blood. As if written by a technical-engineering-report-writing analyst. Or a 1990s version of an AI.

Innumerable times Davis uses the continuous present tense (first person, second and third), but rather than drawing in the reader to the story and character's viewpoint, you soon end up thinking - again and again - that these stories are purely exercises in technique, in the mechanics of storytelling. A clever mind dashing them off over a coffee or cup of tea, much in the same way some people whizz through and complete a daily newspaper crossword and then think no more of it.

Sadly, I can't think of a single story in this collected edition that made me marvel at the writing either for its virtuosity or for its characters. Depressingly, however, I can think of far too many that irritate for their lack of life and feelings, and absence of any real care or consideration for the albeit rice paper-thin characters.

Probably the most disappointing and yet most lauded short story writer I've ever read.

hsgray's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Very clever.

tjasa_f's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

Amazing!

sticklecat's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

There are some great stories in here but despite the authors obvious talent it couldn't sustain my interest and I couldn't finish it. I often find with short stories there's no real incentive to read it cover to cover and after a while my attention wanders.

jansyn_liberty's review against another edition

Go to review page

4.0

Don't try to read 'em all at once!

keight's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

Read this in two installments:
first half in 2011 and second half in 2012