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Thursday, July 15, 2021

'Do Something Else Full Time'

 Ordering is difficult. It's like arranging pieces of music in a concert: What do you put first? What do you put after the intermission? I want the reader to be sort of surprised, to come to each story freshly.” – Lydia Davis

Born in Massachusetts on this day in 1947, Davis is noted for short stories but also is a novelist, essayist, and translator from French and other languages.  She has produced several new translations of French literary classics, including Proust's Swann’s Way and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. 

Both of her parents were writers and teachers so Davis decided to be a musician. She initially studied piano, then violin, but she said it was inevitable that she would become a writer.  "I was probably always headed to being a writer, even though that wasn't my first love,” she said.  “I guess I must have always wanted to write in some part of me or I wouldn't have done it.”  

Davis' stories are acclaimed for their brevity and humor. Many are only one or two sentences. Davis has compared her shorter stories to skyscrapers, because,  "They are surrounded by an imposing blank expanse."  Some of her stories have been labled poetry, even though she insists they are not.   To judge for yourself, I highly commend The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. 

Like her parents, Lydia also became a professor of writing.  “Every writer should do something else full time,” she said.  “I would recommend, definitely, developing a ‘day job’ you like.  Don’t expect to make money writing.”  

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