Philosophical inquiry, examinations of language, and involuted domestic disputes are the focus of Lydia Davis' s inventive collection of short fiction, "Almost No Memory," In each of these stories, Davis reveals an empathic, sometimes shattering understanding of human relationships.
"Each of these superior short story collections is as sharp and swift as an arrow, but each is aimed in a different direction, and each hits different targets. Davis more than lives up to her stellar reputation in her newest collection. Her stories vary in length from single paragraphs to more extended tales, but all share the same flat diction, the same drollness, the same obsessive, impossible objectivity. There is no dialogue and little action, just the nattering of thought, observation, and speculation. Sly, witty, and disarming, Davis loves to makes lists, to chant, to play with words as though they are puzzle pieces, and her staccato rap, her relentless third-person voice, present even in the minds of first-person narrators, is reminiscent of Gertrude Stein, that is, mischievous, mesmerizing, and marvelous. In Ferrell's surging fictional universe, African American teenagers struggle to shield themselves against the demons of chaos, poverty, and inconsistent love. Families fill small Bronx apartments to bursting as girls and boys confront abusive stepfathers and impatient mothers only to end up having babies themselves before they finish high school. Ferrell's besieged characters are vibrant, volatile, and indelible, and she conjures the rhythm of conversation, the comfort of flesh, and the heat of an argument with ardent exactitude. These empathic tales dramatize the frustration of seemingly hopeless situations and the never-ending battle to be yourself, to love who you want to love, to be creative, and to never give up no matter what the Man, or your muddled mother, tells you. Kauffman's on-the-loose characters are disconnected from mainstream America, determinedly entrenched in insular worlds of their own making. No one is particularly busy, and everyone is broke, but they are free to stretch out in tall grass and watch meteor showers or stroll along country roads. Quirky friendships are far more nurturing than familial or sexual relationships, and these offbeat characters, who are clearly just making it up as they go along, dodge anguish whenever possible. Most of these dialogue-driven stories have an odd, end-of-the-millennium down-homeness, but Kauffman gleefully breaks the mold with "26 Acts in 26 Letters," an erotic alphabet of all crazy things. Solwitz's debut collection is trenchant and unnerving. She specializes in dislocation, dysfunction, and distress as she writes about the imperfect emotional fit between men and women, cultural displacement, and madness both personal and societal. In "The Country of Herself," an Israeli woman married to an American Gentile and living in Baghdad loses her mind in a swirl of hostilities. In "Editing," a couple seeks enlightenment in India only to discover their own emptiness and alienation. Indeed, as Solwitz traces the jagged edges of our collective soul, she reminds us that even home can become a foreign country. --Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"The spirit of Donald Barthelme lives on in the pen of Lydia Davis. One of the most interesting and playful of American experimental writers, Davis (The End of the Story, 1995) is a maker of miniatures, elliptical exposures of anguish, desire and dread. In this latest collection of 51 stories, some are no longer than 15 or 20 lines. To appreciate Davis, a reader must enter into the author's obsessive interest in minutiae and accept her postmodern fascination with language as the subject, not merely the medium, of fiction. In "Foucault and Pencil," she writes: "Sat in subway car, took out Foucault and pencil but did not read, thought instead about situation fraught with conflict, red flag, recent argument concerning travel: argument itself became form of travel, each sentence carrying arguers on to next sentence, next sentence on to next." But, particularly in "The Professor" and "The Cats in the Prison Recreational Hall," Davis displays a deadpan humor. This and a gift for the swift delivery of menacing detailsnotably in "The Fish Tank"ally Davis with Barthelme (himself a descendant of Kafka), with whom she shares a suspicion of the unexamined mundane and a delight in stealthy jokes. In three longer tales, she showcases a comfort with narrative storytelling. "Lord Royston's Tour" starts out as parody of a premodern travelogue, complete with surreal descriptions of imperial cities, desert crossings, dead Cossacks and a shipwreck, but it quickly morphs into an arch-literary spoof in which the absurd layering of mannered information provokes unexpected laughs. At their best, these stories are as entertaining as they are formally exquisite. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
|| New York :Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1997
193 pages ; 22 cm