Can't and won't stories

by Davis, Lydia.

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A new collection of short stories from the woman Rick Moody has called "the best prose stylist in America" Her stories may be literal one-liners: the entirety of "Bloomington" reads, "Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before." Or they may be lengthier investigations of the havoc wreaked by the most mundane disruptions to routine: in "A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates," a professor receives a gift of thirty-two small chocolates and is paralyzed by the multitude of options she imagines for their consumption. The stories may appear in the form of letters of complaint; they may be extracted from Flaubert's correspondence; or they may be inspired by the author's own dreams, or the dreams of friends. What does not vary throughout Can't and Won't, Lydia Davis's fifth collection of stories, is the power of her finely honed prose. Davis is sharply observant; she is wry or witty or poignant. Above all, she is refreshing. Davis writes with bracing candor and sly humor about the quotidian, revealing the mysterious, the foreign, the alienating, and the pleasurable within the predictable patterns of daily life.
I. A story of stolen salamis
The dog hair
Circular story
Idea for a sign
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. II. 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
The dog
The grandmother
The dreadful mucamas
Reversible story
A woman, thirty
How I know what I like (six versions)
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. III. The last of the Mohicans
Grade two assignment
an awkward situation
Housekeeping observation
The execution
A note from the paperboy
In the train station
The moon
My footsteps
Jhow I read as quickly as possible thruogh my back issues of the TLS
Notes during long phone conversation with mother
Negative emotions
I'm pretty comfortable, but I could be a little more comfortable
The chairs
My friend's creation
The piano
The party
The cows
The exhibition
Letter to a peppermint candy company
Her geography : Illinois. IV. Ödön von Horváth 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
The sky above Los Angeles
Two characters in a paragraph
Swimming in Egypt
The language of thigns in the house
The washerwomen
Letter to a hotel manager
Her birthday. V. 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
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

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "The title story in Davis' latest collection of nimble and caustic stories, a wry tale about why a writer was denied a prize, is two sentences in length, but, as always with this master of distillation, it conveys volumes. In the wake of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (2009) and receiving the Man Booker International Prize, Davis presents delectably intriguing and affecting new works shaped by her devotion to language, vigilant observations, literary erudition, and tart humor. A number of strikingly enigmatic stories carry the tag dream, and they are, in fact, based on dreams dreamed by Davis and her family and friends. Thirteen intricately layered and thorny pieces flagged as stories from Flaubert improvise saucily and revealingly on the seminal writer's letters. Elsewhere, Davis tosses together the trivial and the profound in hilarious and plangent tales about painful memories and epic indecision, deftly capturing the mind's perpetual churning and the terrible arbitrariness of life. Then, amid all this fretfulness and angst, a narrator devotes herself to watching three serene cows in a neighboring field. Davis is resplendent.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "With her fifth collection, Davis (Break It Down) continues to hone her subtle and distinctive brand of storytelling. These poems, vignettes, thoughts, observations, and stories defy clear categorization; each one is an independent whole, but read together they strike a fine rhythm. Davis circles the same central point in each entry: her characters examine the world with a detached, self-contained logic that seems to represent the process of writing itself. Some of the best pieces in the collection are the shortest, like "Brief Incident in Short a, Long a, and Schwa," which ends: "Ant backtracks fast-straight at cat. Cat, alarmed, backs away. Man, standing, staring, laughs. Ant changes path again. Cat, calm again, watches again." Others dwell longer on their subjects, such as "The Cows," which depicts the movements and relationships of members of a herd, as seen from the window of a countryside home, or the memories of a woman whose older half-sister has recently died in "The Seals." Several stories, set in 19th-century France, begin with "story from Flaubert," and go on to tell of Provencal kitchens, fairs, and executions. There are also disgruntled letters addressed to a frozen pea manufacturer, an Alumni review, and a peppermint candy company. These repetitions give the collection a cadence, and Davis's bulletproof prose sends each story shooting off the page. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Short stories
Short Stories
Electronic books.
Short stories.
Publisher New York :Farrar, Straus and Giroux,2014
Farrar, Straus and Giroux2014
Contributors OverDrive, Inc.
Language English
System Details Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Format: Adobe EPUB eBook
Format: OverDrive Read
Requires Adobe Digital Editions
Description 1 online resource
ISBN 9780374711436
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