My review of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis ran today at PopMatters.
I had been introduced to Lydia Davis’ writing in a college writer’s workshop and her writing piqued my interest. For whatever reason, though, instead of tracking down more of her short fiction, I went straight for her only novel, The End of the Story. It’s likely I assumed that short stories were really just a midpoint in a writer’s evolution, which invariably culminated in a novel.
Lydia Davis is not a novelist, however, she’s a short story writer. I appreciated The End of the Story. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t hate it either. The point-of-view, within the mind of a neurotic, obsessive woman fixated on a romantic entanglement, felt stifling and claustrophobic. I felt the same anxiety in the opening piece of this collection, “Story,” which I’m pretty certain served as the seed for that novel. Thankfully, those feelings were short lived; the rest of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis was entertaining and enlightening.
I’d strongly recommend this collection to anyone interested in a massive book full of brief stories, essays, and prose poems that manage to be engaging without overstaying their welcome. Davis has a relatively dry voice and style but somehow coaxes a significant amount of emotion from those matter-of-fact lines. It’s a great book to pick up on a whim, flip to random page in, and spend a few short minutes getting acquainted with one of Davis’ many well-crafted characters.