October 18, 2009



I read the whole Wood review couple hours ago. One more example of why I am incompatible with this man who needs to take his undercurrents of Protestant religiosity (admittedly not to the fore in this one..but was in his review of Marilyn Robinson's suffocatingly staid Christian word fest tantamount to one of worst cases of literary herniation have encountered in while) and go back to England. He is a bottom unAmerican in sensibility--just as Virginia Woolf said equivalent re Americans. Davis's work is experiment Coover-Barthelme rehash with Carverian tonalities thrown in for pseudo-camouflage. She is little more than sterile anti-Oates (which is not really saying something). Range of emotional and intellectual value in this thing "strongly confessed" gives new depth of meaning to dry and flat.


I've tried LD a few times and always come out with the feeling that it was a grand waste of time. I'll stick with Raymond Carver and Amy Hempel.


fyi, you have Davis' last name misspelled in the first line of this post...

And just to counter both commenters, I love Lydia Davis (and Marilynne Robinson! it makes me sad that people see her books as religious tracts... they are not).


Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I think Davis's work is very fine in its precision.

If anyone would like to scan the whole article and e-mail it to me, I'd be obliged, as I'm hopelessly far from a purchase point of the paper issue.


In 1999 Lydia Davis visited the Kelly Writers House and you should too! Founded in 1995 by a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni, the Kelly Writers House is an actual 13-room house at 3805 Locust Walk on the University of Pennsylvania'ss campus that serves as a center for writers of all kinds from Penn and the Philadelphia region at large. Each semester the Writers House hosts approximately 150 public programs and projects--poetry readings, film screenings, seminars, web magazines, lectures, dinners, radio broadcasts, workshops, art exhibits, and musical performances--and about 500 people visit the House each week. Our ongoing interactive webcasts give listeners from across the country the opportunity to talk with writers such as Ian Frazier, Richard Ford, and Cynthia Ozick. And via our dozens of listservs and email discussion groups, we link writers and readers from across the country and around the world. Through its many programs and projects, the Writers House promotes the full range of contemporary literature, addressing writing both as a practice and as an object of study.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald


    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe


    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."