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Can't and Won't

Davis, Lydia (Book - 2014 )
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Can't and Won't
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A fifth collection by the author of the National Book Award finalist, Varieties of Disturbance, includes pithy one-liners, exploratory observations and letters of complaint, including "A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates," in which a professor is stymied by her choices.
Authors: Davis, Lydia, 1947-
Uniform Title: Short stories. Selections
Title: Can't and won't
Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
Characteristics: xi, 289 pages ;,22 cm
Content Type: text
Media Type: unmediated
Carrier Type: volume
Contents: A story of stolen salamis
The dog hair
Circular story
Idea for a sign
Bloomington
The cook's lesson
At the bank
Awake in the night
At the bank: 2
The two Davises and the rug
Contingency (vs. necessity)
Brief incident in short a, long a, and schwa
Contingency (vs. necessity) 2: on vacation
A story told to me by a friend
The bad novel
After you left
The bodyguard
The child
The churchyard
My sister and the Queen of England
The visit to the dentist
Letter to a frozen peas manufacturer
The cornmeal
Two undertakers
I ask Mary about her friend, the depressive, and his vacation
The magic of the train
Eating fish alone
Can't and Won't
Pouchet's wife
Dinner
The dog
The grandmother
The dreadful mucamas
Reversible story
A woman, thirty
How I know what I like (six versions)
Handel
The force of the subliminal
Her geography: Alabama
The funeral
The husband-seekers
In the gallery
The low sun
The landing
The language of the telephone company
The coachman and the worm
Letter to a marketing manager
The last of the Mohicans
Grade two assignment
Master
An awkward situation
Housekeeping observation
The execution
A note from the paperboy
In the train station
The moon
My footsteps
How I read as quickly as possible through my back issues of the TLS
Notes during long phone conversation with mother
Men
Negative emotions
I'm pretty comfortable, but I could be a little more comfortable
Judgement
The chairs
My friend's creation
The piano
The party
The cows
The exhibition
Letter to a peppermint candy company
Her geography: Illinois
Odon von Horvath out walking
On the train
The problem of the vacuum cleaner
The seals
Learning medieval history
My school friend
The piano lesson
The schoolchildren in the large building
The sentence and the young man
Molly, female cat: history/findings
The letter to the foundation
The results of one statistical study
Revise: 1
Short conversation (in airport departure lounge)
Revise: 2
Left luggage
Waiting for takeoff
Industry
The sky above Los Angeles
Two characters in a paragraph
Swimming in Egypt
The language of things in the house
The washerwomen
Letter to a hotel manager
Her birthday
My childhood friend
Their poor dog
Hello dear
Not interested
Old woman, old fish
Staying at the pharmacist's
The song
Two former students
A small story about a small box of chocolates
The woman next to me on the airplane
Writing
Wrong thank-you in theater
The rooster
Sitting with my little friend
The old soldier
Two sligo lads
The woman in red
If at the wedding (at the zoo)
The gold digger of Goldfields
The old vacuum cleaner keeps dying on her
Flaubert and point of view
Family shopping
Local obits
Letter to the president of the American Biographical Institute, Inc.
Nancy Brown will be in town
Ph.D.
Summary: A fifth collection by the author of the National Book Award finalist, Varieties of Disturbance, includes pithy one-liners, exploratory observations and letters of complaint, including "A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates," in which a professor is stymied by her choices.
Awards & Distinctions: Man Booker International Prize, 2013
Local Note: 6 9 15 53 57 118 133 148 172 175 210 216 222 226 244
Alternate Title: Cannot and will not
ISBN: 9780374118587
0374118582
Statement of Responsibility: Lydia Davis
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (pages 285-289).
Subject Headings: Short stories.
Topical Term: Short stories.
LCCN: 2013033909
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Aug 26, 2014
  • lukasevansherman rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Do you like short stories? I mean, really short stories. Like ones that are two sentences long. For example: "All these years I thought I'd had a Ph.D. But I do not have a Ph.D." Now whether you find that deceptively brilliant or merely irritating will determine what you think about Lydia Davis's most recent collection. She's been compared to Flaubert, Proust, (both of whom she's translated) and Kafka, but she' s more like Beckett with a better sense of humor or a less dirty Bukowski. Like Bukowski in his poetry, she can make a story out of the commonplace and ever day. She's widely acclaimed, so I may well be missing something, but I could not get into this at all, as it was largely free from all the good qualities I associate with writing. Reads quickly though. PS-She originally wanted to call it "Can't Stop and Won't Stop," but was told by her publishers that it sounded too "hip-hop-ish."

Jun 25, 2014
  • Mitzi352 rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

I probably shouldn't have read this book immediately after reading the Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons. Davis' clipped style of writing reminded me too much of the way some of the brain damaged people spoke. Not to say her little vignettes weren't interesting and cute, but when I got to the section entitled "Cows" I had to quit the book.

Jun 22, 2014
  • ksoles rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

If Alice Munro can express the pain, loneliness and anguish of a lifetime in 30 stunning pages, Lydia Davis can do the same in a few sentences. Indeed, no one writes like Davis; her ability to compress intense, significant details into an impossibly crisp style puts her prose in a class of its own.

In her new collection, "Can't and Won't," Davis creates stories from next to nothing. Sometimes only conveying a single observation, she excises all superfluous details and leaves only a kernel of completeness. A seemingly minor detail, an apparently casual conversation or a studied, minute thing can become a story with brevity providing the finishing touch rather than leaving the reader hankering for the unsaid. "Bloomington," for example, reads in its entirety: “Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before.”

Some stories read like aphorisms, some like parables. Some originate from dreams, most transform the banal into the miraculous. Humourously, Davis also employs the genre of the complaint letter, pouring discomfort and anxiety into a non-personal entity. The stories, "Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer" and "Letter to a Peppermint Candy Company" exemplify a fun and unique style.

In her notes, Davis explains that thirteen of her stories were “formed from material found in letters written by Gustave Flaubert during the period he was working on Madame Bovary.” Finally, her most moving story also takes up the most real estate: "The Seals" tells a poignant tale about the continental drift between parents and children, brothers and sisters. Another writer would have written a whole novel on the subject; Lydia Davis says it all in a matter of few pages.

NYPL Staff Pick
Besides being an award-winning translator of Flaubert and Proust, Davis is also an award-winning short story writer (2013 Man Booker International Prize). Although many of the stories in her latest collection are less than a page long, her trenchant insights into human nature keep them from being "too postmodern." Do you have 30 seconds? Then what have you got to lose? Give Davis a try!

Jun 05, 2014
  • mswrite rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Sharp, observant, funny, poignant. I can read it on a bus. I will read it after dinner.

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Version pocillo (pocillo) Last updated 2014/09/02 11:42