Synopses & Reviews
Lydia Davis's first major collection of stories, Break It Down
(1986), a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, was described as "A magnetic collection of stories" (Booklist
), "Strong, seemingly effortless, and haunting work" (Kirkus Reviews
), and "Amazing" (The Village Voice
). The stories, said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times
, "attest to the author's gift as an observer and archivist of emotion."
Davis's next book, The End of the Story, was called "A remarkably original and successful novel" by The London Review of Books, as "Near perfection" by The New Yorker, and "Breathlessly elegant and unsentimental" by Rick Moody.
Almost No Memory, her next collection of stories, was named one of the Voice Literary Supplement's 25 Favorite Books of 1997 and one of the Los Angeles Times's 100 Best Books of 1997. Said the Washington Post Book World, "Lydia Davis's new collection justifies the critical acclaim."
Now, in Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, Davis continues her sometimes harrowing, often witty, always meticulous and honest narrative investigations into such urgent and endlessly complex concerns as boring friends, Marie Curie, neighbors, lawns, marriage, jury duty, Christianity, ethics, selfishness, failing health, old age, funeral parlors, war, Scotland, dictionaries, children, and the problematic vehicle by which such concerns are most often conveyed language itself.
"In this latest collection, Davis doesn't disappoint: the 56 stories paragraph-long meditations, stories in sections, and humorous one-liners showcase the wordplay and distillation of meaning that have become her stylistic hallmarks, offering up crisp twists on familiar themes....Eclectic and astute, Davis continues to find new ways to tell us the things we need to know." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Translator, novelist, and short-fiction specialist Davis assembles another fine collection of 54 wry, haunting pieces, old and new, brief and long....Outsiders, self-doubt, and alienation: all form the bedrock upon which Davis sets up an off-kilter, edgy universe distinctly her own." Kirkus Reviews
"Highly intelligent, wildly entertaining stories, bound by visionary, philosophical, comic prose-part Gertrude Stein, part Simone Weil, and pure Lydia Davis."—Elle
"Davis should be counted among the true originals of contemporary American short fiction."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Davis deploys her gift for verbal bemusement, annoyance, and high anxiety . . . [and] converts her characters' complex ruminations into narratives full of insight and pleasure."—The Village Voice
"Her stories are intellectual and playful, and rigorous as brainteasers."—Bookforum
From one of our most imaginative and inventive writers, a crystalline collection of perfectly modulated, sometimes harrowing and often hilarious investigations into the multifaceted ways in which human beings perceive each other and themselves. A couple suspects their friends think them boring; a woman resolves to see herself as nothing but then concludes she's set too high a goal; and a funeral home receives a letter rebuking it for linguistic errors. Lydia Davis once again proves in the words of the Los Angeles Times
"one of the quiet giants in the world of American fiction."
From one of the "true originals of contemporary American short fiction" ("San Francisco Chronicle") comes this crystalline collection of investigations into the ways in which human being perceive each other and themselves. An ALA Notable Book of the Year.
About the Author
Lydia Davis is the author of the story collections Almost No Memory and Break It Down, and the novel The End of the Story. Her stories have been translated into French, German, and Spanish and widely published in literary magazines, among them The New Yorker, McSweeney's, City Lights Review, Conjunctions, Grand Street, Tin House, Bomb, Harper's, and The Paris Review. She is a noted translator from the French of works by Maurice Blanchot, Michel Butor, Pierre Jean Jouve, Michel Foucault, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others, and recently completed a new translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way for Penguin Classics. Her awards include the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation Award, the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Award, and a Chevalier from the French government. She lives with her family in upstate New York and teaches at Bard College.