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Can't and Won't Stories

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Can't and Won't is the new collection from Lydia Davis one of the greatest short story writers aliveLydia Davis has been universally acclaimed for the wit insight and genre defying formal inventiveness of her sparkling storiesWith titles like 'A Story 3 stars My first LD– didn't really leave the best impression It's the kind of book that gets published on the strength of a writer's already solid reputationA mixed bag– lots of meh some pretty impressive stories esp those translatedexpanded upon from FlaubertHer prose is sharp shines in stories like The Dog Hair the Reversible Story but the voice that comes across in Eating Fish Alone The dreadful Mucamas is highly annoying almost analWhat passes here for Stories are basically writing exercises observations mood pieces prose haiku kind of thing Most of the stories seem to be coming from her own life for example Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer forms part of a correspondence that Davis had with the company of Green Giant brand of frozen products hence those readers who care about the authorial voice will be very put off by the uptight at times whiny voice alternating with the supercilious look at me ain't I a genius kind of vibe hereA typical example of both writerly excellence readerly bafflement would be the story The Cows now in Mr Palomar Italo Calvino describes the underside of a gecko as seen from the room of the titular character's upper window in a couple of brisk paragraphs makes it seem like the amazing mystery of Creation Here Ms Davis is clearly delighting in the writerly process but it seems like a challenge set for creative writing students– Here you have to write on a couple of donkeys doing the things donkeys usually do now give it your best shot Something like thatHere's a sample view spoiler The CowsEach new day when they come out from the far side of the barn it is like the next act or the start of an entirely new playThey amble into view from the far side of the barn with their rhythmic graceful walk and it is an occasion like the start of a paradeSometimes the second and third come out in stately procession after the first has stopped and stands still staringThey come from behind the barn as though something is going to happen and then nothing happensOr we pull back the curtain in the morning and they are already there in the early sunlightThey are a deep inky black It is a black that swallows lightTheir bodies are entirely black but they have white on their faces On the faces of two of them there are large patches of white like a mask On the face of the third there is only a small patch on the forehead the size of a silver dollarThey are motionless until they move again one foot and then another—fore hind fore hind—and stop in another place motionless againSo often they are standing completely still Yet when I look up again a few minutes later they are in another place again standing completely stillWhen they all three stand bunched together in a far corner of the field by the woods they form one dark irregular mass with twelve legsThey are often crowded together in the large field But sometimes they lie down far apart from one another evenly spaced over the grassToday two appear halfway out from behind the barn standing still Ten minutes go by Now they are all the way out standing still Another ten minutes go by Now the third is out and they are all three in a line standing stillThe third comes out into the field from behind the barn when the other two have already chosen their spots uite far apart She can choose to join either one She goes deliberately to the one in the far corner Does she prefer the company of that cow or does she prefer that corner or is it complicated—that that corner seems appealing because of the presence of that cowTheir attention is complete as they look across the road They are still and face usJust because they are so still their attitude seems philosophicalI see them most often out the kitchen window over the top of a hedge My view of them is bounded on either side by leafy trees I am surprised that the cows are so often visible because the portion of the hedge over which I see them is only about three feet long and even puzzling if I hold my arm straight out in front of me the field of my vision in which they are grazing is only the length of half a finger Yet that field of vision contains a part of their grazing field that is hundreds of suare feet in areaThat one’s legs are moving but because she is facing us directly she seems to be staying in one place Yet she is getting bigger so she must be coming this wayOne of them is in the foreground and two are farther back in the middle ground between her and the woods In my field of vision they occupy together in the middle ground the same amount of space she occupies alone in the foregroundBecause there are three one of them can watch what the other two are doing togetherOr because there are three two can worry about the third for instance the one lying down They worry about her even though she often lies down even though they all often lie down Now the two worried ones stand at angles to the other with their noses down against her until at last she gets upThey are nearly the same size and yet one is the largest one the middle sized and one the smallestOne thinks there is a reason to walk briskly to the far corner of the field but another thinks there is no reason and stands still where she isAt first she stands still where she is while the first walks away briskly but then she changes her mind and follows hide spoiler Cries in the Night really leave the best impression It's the kind of book that gets published on the strength of a writer's already solid Justice at Cardwell Ranch reputationA mixed bag– lots of meh some pretty impressive stories esp those translatedexpanded upon from FlaubertHer prose is sharp shines in stories like The Dog Hair the Reversible Story but the voice that comes across in Eating Fish Alone The dreadful Mucamas is highly annoying almost analWhat passes here for Stories are basically writing exercises observations mood pieces prose haiku kind of thing Most of the stories seem to be coming from her own life for example Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer forms part of a correspondence that Davis had with the company of Green Giant brand of frozen products hence those Cowboy Who Came for Christmas readers who care about the authorial voice will be very put off by the uptight at times whiny voice alternating with the supercilious look at me ain't I a genius kind of vibe hereA typical example of both writerly excellence Cradle of Solitude readerly bafflement would be the story The Cows now in Mr Palomar Italo Calvino describes the underside of a gecko as seen from the Cowboy Under the Mistletoe room of the titular character's upper window in a couple of brisk paragraphs makes it seem like the amazing mystery of Creation Here Ms Davis is clearly delighting in the writerly process but it seems like a challenge set for creative writing students– Here you have to write on a couple of donkeys doing the things donkeys usually do now give it your best shot Something like thatHere's a sample view spoiler The CowsEach new day when they come out from the far side of the barn it is like the next act or the start of an entirely new playThey amble into view from the far side of the barn with their The Christmas Wedding Quilt: Let It Snow\You Better Watch Out\Nine Ladies Dancing rhythmic graceful walk and it is an occasion like the start of a paradeSometimes the second and third come out in stately procession after the first has stopped and stands still staringThey come from behind the barn as though something is going to happen and then nothing happensOr we pull back the curtain in the morning and they are already there in the early sunlightThey are a deep inky black It is a black that swallows lightTheir bodies are entirely black but they have white on their faces On the faces of two of them there are large patches of white like a mask On the face of the third there is only a small patch on the forehead the size of a silver dollarThey are motionless until they move again one foot and then another—fore hind fore hind—and stop in another place motionless againSo often they are standing completely still Yet when I look up again a few minutes later they are in another place again standing completely stillWhen they all three stand bunched together in a far corner of the field by the woods they form one dark irregular mass with twelve legsThey are often crowded together in the large field But sometimes they lie down far apart from one another evenly spaced over the grassToday two appear halfway out from behind the barn standing still Ten minutes go by Now they are all the way out standing still Another ten minutes go by Now the third is out and they are all three in a line standing stillThe third comes out into the field from behind the barn when the other two have already chosen their spots uite far apart She can choose to join either one She goes deliberately to the one in the far corner Does she prefer the company of that cow or does she prefer that corner or is it complicated—that that corner seems appealing because of the presence of that cowTheir attention is complete as they look across the Crybaby Falls road They are still and face usJust because they are so still their attitude seems philosophicalI see them most often out the kitchen window over the top of a hedge My view of them is bounded on either side by leafy trees I am surprised that the cows are so often visible because the portion of the hedge over which I see them is only about three feet long and even puzzling if I hold my arm straight out in front of me the field of my vision in which they are grazing is only the length of half a finger Yet that field of vision contains a part of their grazing field that is hundreds of suare feet in areaThat one’s legs are moving but because she is facing us directly she seems to be staying in one place Yet she is getting bigger so she must be coming this wayOne of them is in the foreground and two are farther back in the middle ground between her and the woods In my field of vision they occupy together in the middle ground the same amount of space she occupies alone in the foregroundBecause there are three one of them can watch what the other two are doing togetherOr because there are three two can worry about the third for instance the one lying down They worry about her even though she often lies down even though they all often lie down Now the two worried ones stand at angles to the other with their noses down against her until at last she gets upThey are nearly the same size and yet one is the largest one the middle sized and one the smallestOne thinks there is a Criminal Intent reason to walk briskly to the far corner of the field but another thinks there is no The Sharpshooter's Secret Son reason and stands still where she isAt first she stands still where she is while the first walks away briskly but then she changes her mind and follows hide spoiler

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C and the surprisingAbove all the stories revel in and grapple with the joys and constraints of language achieving always the extraordinary unmatched precision which makes Lydia Davis one of the greatest contemporary writers on the international stage This is the first I've read of Lydia Davis Immediately the first microstory A Story of Stolen Salamis reminded me of Thomas Bernhard's collection The Voice Imitator also microstories It was a pale imitation Two Undertakers one of the better stories was also reminiscent of Bernhard Roland Barthes watches two undertakers have a bite to eat while on the job Barthes' deceased mother waits outside in one of the hearses And it's difficult not to think of Bernhard when reading Ödön von Horváth Out Walking if only because of the setting in the Bavarian AlpsI didn't find much from the book jacket bracing candor In fact mostly the opposite The subject of the book seems to be Davis's literary persona and whoever the real Davis is she's hiding behind that Not that this is a legitimate complaint; after all this is fiction Maybe self deprecation was meant by candor rather than actual truth telling One small but irksome example of a lack of candor was in the story The Letter to the Foundation one of two normal length stories Davisthe narrator has just won a large grant presumably the MacArthur Fellows Award and is describing years later what winning the award was like Far into the story she writes Soon after the new year I met with a tax advisor and he gave me some bad news A large part of the grant would go to paying taxes on the grant First for anyone of adult age living in a developed country why would this be news Does the narrator have no idea how our tax system works Does she think the monetary award was not income Second why is there an exclamation point after on the grant on what other thing would the taxes be levied What's the point of this fake astonishment And my distaste for the weaseling in some of the stories was arrived at independently before I read the claim that the book displayed bracing candorNor was the supposed humor to my taste It was an omnipresent archness a narrator who is or is pretending to be roguish mischievous The complaint letters to companies whose products have let her down in some way are the best examples of this Again I have to contrast the supposed humor here to Bernhard's comedy which genuinely works Maybe it works better because Bernhard is going for lunacy while Davis is mostly staying on the plane of the real although there are lots of brief dreams her own and others' interspersed here Men is a story where she does achieve real comedy probably because it is absurdist There are also men in the world Sometimes we forget and think there are only women The Christmas Wedding Quilt: Let It Snow\You Better Watch Out\Nine Ladies Dancing revel in and grapple with the joys and constraints of language achieving always the extraordinary unmatched precision which makes Lydia Davis one of the greatest contemporary writers on the international stage This is the first I've Crybaby Falls read of Lydia Davis Immediately the first microstory A Story of Stolen Salamis Criminal Intent reminded me of Thomas Bernhard's collection The Voice Imitator also microstories It was a pale imitation Two Undertakers one of the better stories was also The Sharpshooter's Secret Son reminiscent of Bernhard Roland Barthes watches two undertakers have a bite to eat while on the job Barthes' deceased mother waits outside in one of the hearses And it's difficult not to think of Bernhard when Criminal Intent reading Ödön von Horváth Out Walking if only because of the setting in the Bavarian AlpsI didn't find much from the book jacket bracing candor In fact mostly the opposite The subject of the book seems to be Davis's literary persona and whoever the The Daddy List real Davis is she's hiding behind that Not that this is a legitimate complaint; after all this is fiction Maybe self deprecation was meant by candor The Cowboy Collection: Caitlyn's Prize / Madison's Children / A Cowboy's Plan / This Cowboy's Son / The Horseman's Secret / The Brother Returns rather than actual truth telling One small but irksome example of a lack of candor was in the story The Letter to the Foundation one of two normal length stories Davisthe narrator has just won a large grant presumably the MacArthur Fellows Award and is describing years later what winning the award was like Far into the story she writes Soon after the new year I met with a tax advisor and he gave me some bad news A large part of the grant would go to paying taxes on the grant First for anyone of adult age living in a developed country why would this be news Does the narrator have no idea how our tax system works Does she think the monetary award was not income Second why is there an exclamation point after on the grant on what other thing would the taxes be levied What's the point of this fake astonishment And my distaste for the weaseling in some of the stories was arrived at independently before I Shattered Lullaby read the claim that the book displayed bracing candorNor was the supposed humor to my taste It was an omnipresent archness a narrator who is or is pretending to be A Dad At Last roguish mischievous The complaint letters to companies whose products have let her down in some way are the best examples of this Again I have to contrast the supposed humor here to Bernhard's comedy which genuinely works Maybe it works better because Bernhard is going for lunacy while Davis is mostly staying on the plane of the The Consummate Cowboy real although there are lots of brief dreams her own and others' interspersed here Men is a story where she does achieve Crave real comedy probably because it is absurdist There are also men in the world Sometimes we forget and think there are only women

Lydia Davis á 3 read

Of Stolen Salamis' 'Letters to a Frozen Pea Manufacturer' 'A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates' and 'Can't and Won't' the stories in this new collection illuminate particular moments in ordinary lives and find in them the humorous the ironi I'm calling a case of the Emperor has no clothes I am amazed at the number of 4 and 5 star reviews of this people calling it brilliant 20 something pages of descriptions of cows walking and standing 5 pages of lines from obituaries The interminable Letter to the Foundation I forced myself to slog through this thinking it had to get better or that at some point a light bulb would go on and I'd get it but I don't think there's anything to get I have never read Lydia Davis before but I've heard of her and gathered that this book is meant to be Great Literature Maybe some of her work is and I'm willing to try something else but I've written shopping lists interesting than the stories in this book