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Can't and Won't: Stories

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  2,578 Ratings  ·  427 Reviews
Here is a new collection of short stories from the writer 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
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Hardcover, 289 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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s.penkevich
Mar 23, 2015 s.penkevich rated it really liked it
A ‘story’ is much more than a plot, and the marvelous Lydia Davis is a master at examining the pliability of the concept of ‘story’. Can’t and Won’t, the most recent collection by Davis, takes a slightly more somber atmosphere than previous collections while exquisitely elevating everyday occurrences to extract the literary elements that exist all around us. These stories range from a mere dozen words or a dozen sentences to a dozen pages, each packed with equal amounts of power and insight. Man ...more
Mala
May 28, 2016 Mala rated it liked it
Recommends it for: MFA students in creative writing course
Recommended to Mala by: Lydia Davis hype

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 reputation.

A mixed bag– lots of meh, some pretty impressive stories, esp. those translated/expanded upon from Flaubert.
Her 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 anal...
What passes here for *Stor
...more
MJ Nicholls
Jun 06, 2014 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More LD equals a triple chocolate and fudge surprise minus the week-long sickness and hours straining at stool. This is another characteristic assemblage of micro-stories and longer mental peregrinations, narrated in that gentle intellectual register. Among the longer pieces: ‘The Landing’ evokes the terror of turbulence on a routine passenger flight, ‘The Dreadful Mucamas’ is a surreal and satirical tale of misbehaving Mexican servants, ‘The Cows’ details the complex movements and behaviours of ...more
Kristen
You know how sometimes you come on here, and look at the reviews other readers have left, and thought, "Well, okay, I guess I'll keep going"? Then you finish and find yourself wondering how the book has so many 4 and 5 star reviews. That's where I am right now.

I don't mind the occasional super-short short story; that's fine. In fact, my favorite of this entire book was just that; entitled "Housekeeping Observation", the entire story is this, "Under all this dirt/the floor is really very clean."
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Cheryl
Jun 30, 2014 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of this reminds me of My Struggle: Book One. Sort of like Knausgaard crossed with Steven Wright. She has a better sense of humor than Karl Ove though.

The stories challenge you to consider what is a story. They don’t always have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They are not poetry. They are playing, playful sometimes.

Some are just pithy observations. This might be overstating it in some cases. Just observations then. Waiting to take on whatever significance the reader chooses. Like the art
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Rick
Oct 12, 2014 Rick rated it did not like it
ANSWER: "Can't and Won't"
QUESTION: Will I read another book of "stories" by Lydia Davis?
Paquita Maria Sanchez
One of my favorites, which I find disturbingly easy to relate to as a person who often engages in solitary, futile lashing out at the heavens sessions:

The old vacuum cleaner keeps dying on her
over and over
until at last the cleaning woman
scares it by yelling:
"Motherfucker!"

This book would normally be the type of thing I would love--a bunch of wittle snippies with lots of thoughts conveyed in limited language--but there just weren't many that stuck to my guts. There were very few longer stories, b
...more
Lobstergirl
Jul 13, 2016 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Recommends it for: John Denver
Shelves: fiction

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
...more
Tosh
May 17, 2014 Tosh rated it it was amazing
After reading this collection of short stories by Lydia Davis, the only single word that comes to my mind is "perfect." Her observations on various aspects of life are extremely funny or moving - or sometimes both. A lot of people comment on the length of her stories, but I think that is really not that important. She is sort of like a boxer who knows when to strike and when to walk away. Her prose writing is beautifully sculptured, and one marvel not only in her skill in putting words together ...more
C.S. Mize
Sep 23, 2014 C.S. Mize rated it did not like it
Simply put, the writing is just not good, and the pieces individually and collectively are dull, bland, and without taste. This book is like a burnt biscuit for me. No amount of jam sweetened it up; in fact the more fluff, the more I felt burned.

Obviously, I really hated this book. I found it wordy and tiresome. I rarely say I hate a book. However, I read A LOT so it has to happen sometimes I guess. Being a pretty fast reader, I see no reason after I buy a book to not finish it- I kind of made
...more
Sara Kovacs
Sep 04, 2014 Sara Kovacs rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Toni
Jun 18, 2014 Toni rated it it was ok
I really, really loved her Collected Stories, when they came out a few years back, but this one ... meh. Not sure whether she's just not on her A-game here, or it's me that's changed. Have I lost my appetite for super-arty literature? (And if so, is that a good or bad thing?) Or, was she being waaaayyyy too self-indulgent & self-involved here? I mean, 30% of the "stories" (as they were) in this book are essentially straight from her dream journal (literally, annotated "dream"). And is it not ...more
Lisa
Jun 23, 2014 Lisa rated it did not like it
As Lydia Davis wrote;

The Bad Novel
This dull, difficult novel I have brought with me on my trip - I keep trying to read it. I have gone back to it so many times, each time dreading it and each time finding it no better than the last time, that by now it has become something of an old friend. My old friend the bad novel.

OR

The Old Vacuum Cleaner Keeps Dying on Her
The old vacuum cleaner keeps dying on her
over and over
until at last the cleaning woman
scares it by yelling:
"Motherfucker!"

OR

The Husband
...more
Abby
May 12, 2014 Abby rated it it was amazing
"Oh, we writers may think we invent too much — but reality is worse every time!"

LYDIA DAVIS! She could not be more perfect. This collection is weird and brilliant and funny and surprising. It utterly delighted me in every way; her style got embedded in my brain. Upon finishing this collection, I felt like I was actually thinking and reasoning and observing my daily activities in a Lydia Davis-esque way. Which I am more than OK with. Highly recommended to anyone with eyes.
Julie Ehlers
Oct 05, 2014 Julie Ehlers rated it really liked it
I found this book perplexing. I liked the longer stories, such as "The Seals," which I found very moving, and "The Letter to the Foundation," which I thought shed some real light on human nature. The shorter ones I had a harder time with. I definitely enjoyed some of them, such as the one where she wrote to a frozen-vegetable company to tell them the photo of frozen peas on their packages needed to be a more vibrant green, or the one where she said that she enjoyed ordering fish at restaurants ...more
Janet Berkman
May 17, 2014 Janet Berkman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Well, wow.

First of all, I can't believe that I've never read any of her work before.

This collection is what I imagine a writer's diary to be like: the stories range from a line or two to 25 pages. Each start on a new page. Some are dreams. Some are (translated) excerpts from Flaubert. Letters. Snippets of conversation. Davis elevates the mundane to philosophical pondering, and brings down the self-important.

I want to read more.

And start a writer's diary.
Toto
Apr 30, 2014 Toto rated it really liked it
I did not like Lydia Davis' translations of Madame Bovary or Swann's Way. For lack of a better expression, they "smelled" of translation. Language was very self conscious; these translations invited the reader to see the story as being told in language rather than forget the language and immerse oneself in the story. It was off putting. Reading Swann's Way in her translation was a chore for me, and I thought it was Proust. Reading it elsewhere, and in other languages too, I saw that it was Lydia ...more
Cem Binbir
Man Booker ödülü almış bir kitaba bu notu vermeden önce kendimi tekrar sorgularım. Ama bu kitabı okumaktan hiç zevk almadığıma eminim. Kitapta yer alan kısa ve çok kısa öykülerde yaratıcı veya çarpıcı bulduğum kısımlar çok çok azdı.

"Rüya" kategorisiyle sunulan parçalar gerçekten rüya anlatısı gibiydi, dolayısıyla yabancı bir yorumcunun da yazdığı gibi "sizin rüyanızı dinlemek aslında kimse için ilginç değildir".

Bu kitabı okumak modern sanat sergisi gezmek gibiydi benim için. Bazı öyküleri "bunu
...more
Blair
May 12, 2014 Blair marked it as unsuccessful-attempt  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-release
I'm not getting anywhere with this. I feel like the majority of the stories could have been written by anyone, so clearly I don't understand it in the right way, or maybe it's not a good place to start given that I haven't read anything else by Davis? Might go back and finish if I feel I have any reason to, but I can't see that happening.
Ellie
Nov 28, 2015 Ellie rated it it was amazing
Lydia Davis is as brilliant as always. I can't figure out what she does. It starts out seeming simplistic but it gains power as you keep reading. Now I can't get the stories out of my head (even one that is literally 3 lines long). She's an addiction (like her heroine in "A Small Story about a Small Box of Chocolates"-one of my favorite).

I have to go start re-reading.
Iletrado
May 04, 2015 Iletrado rated it really liked it
Sueños, juegos de palabras, pruebas, estudios, anotaciones, ideas, cartas ficticias, dudas... Hay relatos en este libro absolutamente magistrales, como 'Las focas', y textos que son puro divertimento, una especie de comentarios y observaciones de la vida cotidiana. Davis se fija en esos detalles que, a priori, no despiertan interés alguno y logra que nos sorprenda en más de una ocasión.
Dan Plonsey
Sep 24, 2016 Dan Plonsey rated it liked it
There are many reasons to write stories. For Lydia Davis, I would posit: love of the very sound of words, desire to express things which are most difficult to express, desire to experiment with, or challenge, the traditional forms of short story, and perhaps to redefine (or expand) narrative itself. There are many contemporary writers whose stories are indirect forms of narrative; Davis is one of the most extreme, most interesting, and most successful. She has written many stories which are ...more
Eric T. Voigt Voigt
Feb 18, 2015 Eric T. Voigt Voigt rated it it was amazing
Lydia Davis always acts as a sort of shining example of The Writer. She sets out to describe things so clearly, whether they're mundane observations, simply descriptions of cows standing in a field or how the weather looks out a window, or highly complex emotional situations, where internal dialogue is an entire story, it's always epically engrossing. Like, bring on the cows. How many were standing there? Three? Excellent. And she's so clear about everything it reminds me that words have an ...more
Courtney Lou
Apr 22, 2014 Courtney Lou rated it really liked it
Don't get me wrong, I love Lydia Davis and was really expecting this book to be 5-start-worthy, (maybe the problem was with my expectations…) but I felt kind of disappointed with this collection. I found the Flaubert stories entertaining, however, I wasn't the biggest fan of the dream stories. I can see how they're interesting to analyze, but that's really where the appeal ended. Some how I felt the dream stories were a cop out. I know that's wrong and probably not fair, but the collection ...more
Jay
Aug 31, 2014 Jay rated it liked it
I suppose my biggest problem with this book is that I can't seem to get past seeing Davis' approach as a novelty. At her best, she is insightful, deft, surprising, but I'm wanting to experience that far more than continually noticing that there is one micro-story after another. It feels like eating hors d'oeuvres for the main course, which leaves me unsatisfied, even if some of them are delicious.
Kate
Sep 18, 2015 Kate is currently reading it
Are you depressed? No? You sure? OK. Would you like to start wondering if maybe you ARE a little bit depressed? Then I have the book for you.

I will always love the title, though. I have a thing for short story collection titles and this is one of my favorites.
Cynthia
Nov 02, 2015 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Recommended to those who have a few minutes to read before passing out asleep in bed. You will feel entirely satisfied even if the story you just read was barely two lines and had no punctuation marks.
Julio Reyes
Jul 26, 2015 Julio Reyes rated it it was amazing
"Escribir se trata demasiado a menudo sobre personas que no pueden arreglárselas". Davis intuye uno de los grandes temas de la literatura: buscar soluciones en textos escritos por otros que también las buscaban al enfrentar la página en blanco.
Helen McClory
This book shows restraint.
I nearly wrote 'startling restraint' or 'a lot of restraint'
but this book has taught me things.
'The Cows' was my favourite story.
Viki
Mar 14, 2015 Viki rated it did not like it
Can't and won't finish this book! Gave it 70 pages but moving on....too many books, too little time.
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500 Great Books B...: Can't and Won't - Lydia Davis - Cheryl 1 22 Oct 18, 2014 10:00PM  
Book Keeping: Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis 1 20 Mar 14, 2014 04:03PM  
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Lydia Davis, acclaimed fiction writer and translator, is famous in literary circles for her extremely brief and brilliantly inventive short stories. In fall 2003 she received one of 25 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” awards. In granting the award the MacArthur Foundation praised Davis’s work for showing “how language itself can entertain, how all that what one word says, and leaves unsaid, can hold ...more
More about Lydia Davis...

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“I had had a feeling of freedom because of the sudden change in my life. By comparison to what had come before, I felt immensely free. But then, once I became used to that freedom, even small tasks became more difficult. I placed constraints on myself, and filled the hours of the day. Or perhaps it was even more complicated than that. Sometimes I did exactly what I wanted to do all day—I lay on the sofa and read a book, or I typed up an old diary—and then the most terrifying sort of despair would descend on me: the very freedom I was enjoying seemed to say that what I did in my day was arbitrary, and that therefore my whole life and how I spent it was arbitrary.” 15 likes
“Under all this dirt the floor is really very clean.” 8 likes
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