Meet Lydia Davis: A Miami Book Fair author you may not know
Lydia Davis is a “writer’s writer,” revered among critics and other authors, but too little known among general readers. That may change with the publication of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, just out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Davis, who will be at the Miami Book Fair International on Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m., is a short story writer admired beyond measure by other writers. “The best prose stylist in America,” says Rick Moody–and that’s among the more moderate accolades.
Critics find her work irresistible, too. Glowing reviews of The Collected Stories can be found, among other places, at The Village Voice, Time Out Chicago, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, where Craig Morgan Teicher calls her “master of a literary form largely of her own invention.”
That form is the very short story, what’s variously called “sudden fiction,” “flash fiction,” or “prose poems,” though Davis herself resists that last term in a meaty interview with The Believer, saying even the shortest prose fiction is ” flatter, rhythmically different from a poem, and less elliptical.”
How short is a Lydia Davis story? Here is one in its entirety. You can sample others at Drexel University’s website:
They are lost, but also not lost but somewhere in the world. Most of them are small, though two are larger, one a coat and one a dog. Of the small things, one is a certain ring, one a certain button. They are lost from me and where I am, but they are also not gone. They are somewhere else, and they are there to someone else, it may be. But if not there to someone else, the ring is, still, not lost to itself, but there, only not where I am, and the button, too, there, still, only not where I am.
Not all of Davis’ stories are this short (though some are much shorter). Some have something like narrative and something like characters. But as she tells The Believer, “I’m simply not interested, at this point, in creating narrative scenes between characters.”
In the course of her career, Davis has received a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius award”), and she’s been a finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and many other grants and prizes. She’s also a distinguished translator, with an internationally acclaimed translation of Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust. She’s currently at work on a new translation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.
Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the work of this unique American talent. And be sure to see her at Miami Book Fair International (Nov. 8-15).