Break It Down Stories

Lydia Davis

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

192 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
Lydia Davis has been called "an American virtuoso of the short story form" (Salon) and an innovator who attempts to "remake the model of the modern short story" (The New York Times Book Review). As Time magazine observed, her stories are “moving [and] inevitable, as if she has written down what we were all on the verge of thinking ourselves.”  The thirty-four stories in Break it Down powerfully display what have become Lydia Davis's trademarks—dexterity, brevity, understatement, and surprise. Although the certainty of her prose suggests a world of almost clinical reason and clarity, her characters show us that life, thought, and language are full of disorder. Break It Down is Davis at her best—"an extraordinary technician of language, capable of revealing elusive human tendencies through the most unusual means" (Bookforum).


Praise for Break It Down

"Davis is a magician of self-consciousness. Few writers now working make the words on the page matter more."—Jonathan Franzen

"The best prose stylist in America."—Rick Moody

"One of the quiet giants of Amerian fiction."—Benjamin Weissman, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Davis works at something much larger: an attempt to remake the model of the modern short story. She tinkers with nearly every convention imaginable, often refusing to give characters names, gracing others with initials only and even managing to tell one story without mentioning any characters at all. Along the way, she rehabilitates older forms like fables and journals, exploring the paradox set forth in the title story's opening line . . . Davis surveys all this and more in compressed prose that is frequently poetic and, without question, memorable."—Liam Callanan, The New York Times Book Reivew

"Lydia Davis has been considered an American virtuoso of the short story form since the publication of her first major collection, Break It Down . . . which was met with unreserved critical acclaim. Introspective and subversive, ironic and playful, obsessive and funny, Davis' stories reveal the ratcheting of the imagination and the ineffable movement of the mind over the varied textures of daily life."—Kate Moses, Salon

"Davis is one of the most precise and economical writers we have."—Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s

"Davis can achieve an impressive degree of realism when it comes to revealing the essence of thinking and feeling. For a writer who is, on the surface, so strenuously cerebral, she produces writing that is often exceedingly intimate, and it's this discrepancy that proves rewarding in her work. . . . Davis is an extraordinary technician of language, capable of revealing elusive human tendencies through the most unusual means."—Ben Marcus, Bookforum

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

LYDIA DAVIS has received a MacArthur genius grant among other honors. Her collection Varieties of Disturbance was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award.

Read the full excerpt


  • Lydia Davis

  • Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and seven story collections, including Varieties of Disturbance, which was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. Winner of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, she is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government for her fiction and her translations of modern writers including Maurice Blanchot, Michel Leiris, and Marcel Proust.