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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

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Interview with Lydia Davis

Intelligent Life (The Economist)--Autumn 2009

"Lydia Davis is either revered or ignored. She has won many awards, yet her books rarely reach the uninitiated. She is more like a secret handshake, treasured among those in the know—writers, mostly. Rick Moody has called her “the best prose stylist in America”; Francine Prose has admitted to reading Davis “when I feel that I’m becoming too narrow, too rigid, too limited”. Introducing Davis at a reading some years ago, Dave Eggers suggested that many writers can’t help but try to copy her.

Yet a recent visit to the Strand bookstore in New York (“18 miles of books”, new and used) yielded nothing by Davis. A woman at the help desk explained: “Her work is rarely reissued, and the people who have her books tend to hold on to them.”

Davis should pick up more attention now, as Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishes “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis”. Though she is only 62 and still writing, this book has a career-culminating formality. Weighing in at nearly 800 pages and drawn from the stories in “Break It Down” (1986), “Almost No Memory” (1997), “Samuel Johnson is Indignant” (2001) and “Varieties of Disturbance” (2007), “The Collected Stories” is the kind of backbreaker that shoves an author into the canon."--Emily Bobrow

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