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Friday, July 15, 2022

'Like Arranging Pieces of Music'

 “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

An American writer noted for her short stories, Davis also is a novelist, essayist, and translator from French and other languages and 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, born this day in 1947, decided to be a musician. She initially studied piano, then violin, but she said it probably 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 labeled poetry, even though she insists they are not.   Check out The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis containing all her stories up to 2008 - a wonderful read. 

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.”  But, of course, for those of us who choose the writing life, hope springs eternal.



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