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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,617 Ratings  ·  325 Reviews

Lydia Davis is one of our most original and influential writers, a storyteller celebrated for her emotional acuity, her formal inventiveness, and her ability to capture the mind in overdrive. She has been called "an American virtuoso of the s
Paperback, 733 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Picador (first published September 29th 2009)
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Catherine Quillman Davis is in her own category. however her fiction now falls into the category of short short stories.I'm sure her profession as a translator…moreDavis is in her own category. however her fiction now falls into the category of short short stories.I'm sure her profession as a translator determined her understanding of the complexities of word choice. Hate to bring relationships into it but she was married to Paul Austin who has almost a cult status w his magic realism fiction. He also worked as a translator and they often shared ideas about readers interpret ation. (less)
Egbert Starr I think the sweetest place to start would be with her small collection of stories called "Stories and Other Stories." Everything is laid out nicely…moreI think the sweetest place to start would be with her small collection of stories called "Stories and Other Stories." Everything is laid out nicely and it's a treat for the ear and for the mind.(less)
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my table
4th out of 27 books — 31 voters
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Innovative Fiction
9th out of 32 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 18, 2012 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The imagination
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Lydia Davis shits out tiny nuggets of pure golden prose and says 'oh, this old thing?' This is 5 stars of brillance, and an extra star for the stories that will manifest in your mind as your imagination takes over to fill in the unmentioned and try to place the greater horizons of these characters circumstances.

Like her stories, I'm keeping this short. However, these stories will leave a long lasting impression. Highly recommended, especially for fans of flash-fiction and authors such as Amelia
Sarah Meyer
Aug 21, 2014 Sarah Meyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I almost didn't want to tell anyone I was reading this because it blew my mind so hard that I'd almost prefer it to have been a dream or something. Let's just never mention it.
Courtney Johnston
People often say they read books for escapism. I certainly read for solace and comfort. This kind of reading is not for escaping, I think, but for enduring - "I will read this until this situation has passed"; "I will read this until this feeling has gone away".

The mood I find hardest to ameliorate with books is that one where you drift restlessly round the house, picking things up and putting them down, starting things and then walking off again - when you're feeling a little fractured, a litt
Sentimental Surrealist
I was all geared up to declare Lydia Davis the best living author, on the strength of these four collections (I haven't yet read Can't and Won't: Stories or The End of the Story, but I'll get there), and while I stopped myself when I remembered the juggernaut that is Pynchon, I'm still not sure I was too far off the mark. She's certainly, with Borges and O'Connor gone, the best living author of short stories, with apologies to Amy Hempel.

So why am I so impressed with Lydia Davis? Part of it is
Feb 08, 2010 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
These stories don’t so much bloom and bleed over their blank pages as hold their breath, fill up their lungs and wait for you to tiptoe past. They’re claustrophobic and lonely, a three floor walk-up to an elbow apartment with pale sunlight and the city below under glass.

“Break It Down,” though, gets five stars.
May 03, 2011 Jaime rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't finish this. Someone please tell Lydia Davis that a story is not a quirky ancedote.
Jun 02, 2012 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Been picking through these for a while now. How much can be said with so little. Get in closer. Read every word.

They form a collective memory, although being discrete pieces.
Apr 27, 2014 Tosh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-bought
A book that took me forever to read, not due to its content (I don't think), but more by design. I tend to read short story collections very slowly, and almost not wanting to finish them. I think I read 80% of "The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" in the bathtub. So if I take a bath everyday, how many baths is that? Nevertheless it will not have anything to do with Davis' writings, which are precise, focused, and not one wasted word. In other words, they're sort of perfection in practice.


A Man Questions His Future.

Will he ever read this? He doesn't know. And if he does, will it make any difference?

Well, that's my attempt at writing a Lydia Davis story. Of course I'm not the crafter that she is with the sentence and the word.

In the Mar 17 2014 New Yorker, Dana Goodyear writes of Ms. Davis, her stories, her persona, her life, and her translations. (Did anyone in the Proust Group last year read her translation of Swann's Way? She thinks it's better than Moncrieff's, since i
Peter Clothier
Oct 25, 2011 Peter Clothier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis like drinking a fine wine. There's a taste of Kafka, a hint of Richard Brautigan, definitely a flavor of Borges... Russell Edson lurking in there somewhere, too. And a couple of others I have not yet been able to identify. Not that Davis in any way derivative, that's not what I mean. It's a distinct pleasure to read her and make all these associations. Her stories are a fine blend of the absurd and the lyrical, the emotionally disturbing a ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
Some of the stories in this collection are genius. I especially like the ones where she plays with the whole notion of truth/fiction/lies and how slippery those concepts can be. On the other hand, some of the "stories" are not even really stories. I've written better-thought-out stuff in my personal journal on a bad day. Here is the full text of one "story": "Gainesville! It's too bad your cousin is dead!" Aw come on gimme a break. If I, an unknown writer, were to submit this to any literary jou ...more
Sep 11, 2011 Maureen rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011, short-stories
Lydia Davis is certainly different, and i can't say i'd read anything quite like this (except in terms of brevity) up until this collection. i can't say i adored it though, or even that i really liked most of what was here. four story collections are combined: Break it down (1986), Almost No Memory (1997), Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2001) and Varieties of Disturbance (2007), and i want to say as a new reader of hers, i probably did her a disservice by reading her in this fashion, in a complete ...more
Jun 16, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm halfway through this collection of four collections of short stories and I have to take a breather. Dense, like poetry. Formalistically inspiring, like Amy Hempel's work. Hypnotic, funny, strange, aloof. Lots of words to describe the "stories" of Lydia Davis. Often, there is no real story, just a question, an idea, a notion. Frequently, if there are characters, they are lost in time and space. There is very little conventional dialog and scene-setting. A radical departure. Impacted a story I ...more
Jun 09, 2015 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to read a book like this, that's what's interesting me most in the community reviews on Lydia Davis' collected short stories.

I've begun accidentally, by my boyfriend reading me two of the stories--knowing I'm a Russia fan, reading me the mock historical-travel piece, 'Lord Royton's Tour,' in which she perfectly captures the tone of those old travel writings of the eighteenth century, capturing perfect detail--the names of conveyances, the brilliant sense of landscape. Being somewhat famili
Aug 10, 2015 Holly rated it it was amazing
Lydia Davis is a genius. And upon completion of this less-harrowing-than-it-looks collection, she has cemented herself as my favorite short story writer of all time. Words matter to Davis, and the inventive ways in which she uses them connotes her intense love of language and syntax. She is consistently fresh and surprising, shocking and poignant, clever and magical. The thing about Davis is that she never gets bored; her passion seeps through her words like a bleeding wound. She makes eloquence ...more
Lydia Davis is the master. From almost novella length to a few sentences, or even words, Davis has a command of the form and of quick and devastating characterization. It's a brick but an enjoyable brick.
Apr 21, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, that was certainly one of the weirdest books I've ever read in my life. I don't know if I've ever wrinkled my face as much or said "WTF?" out loud as many times while reading a book. This is definitely a must-have book for any aspiring writer to have on their shelves (or any short story aficionado), just to see what kind of crazy shit is out there. Ms. Davis is constantly heralded as someone who is consistently pushing the boundaries of a what a story is or can or can't do, and while that ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I'm not finished The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, I'm going to take a break from it. I think it's better to read a collection like this for a while, and then stop for a bit, rather than read the whole thing through. It's impossible to properly process each story if you're just ploughing through... at least it is for me.

Anyway, I'd never heard of Lydia Davis before this book caught my eye in the bookshop, but when I picked it up and read some of the blurbs on the back I had to ge
Nov 24, 2013 Frenchy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I've read in years.
I was vaguely aware of who Lydia Davis was and of her highly respected status in literary circles, but it's only this year I finally got to read her. This book is a collection of several volumes of stories, some of them lengthy but most of them very brief. You can try to read them in succession or just pick and choose at random, which makes the experience even more delightful.
I can only say it was love at first sight, and I usually don't like reading sho
Dec 27, 2009 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Most famously many of Davis’s stories are short—a page or less, in fact, a paragraph or less. Here, for example are four stories in their entirety: “It has been so long since she used a metaphor!” (Away from Home); “Each seal uses many blowholes and each blowhole is used by many seals.” (Information from the North Concerning the Ice:”); “I am happy the leaves are growing large so quickly. Soon they will hide the neighbor and her screaming child.” (Spring Spleen); and “We know we are very special ...more
Jul 12, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is the masterful translator of Madame Bovary and Swann's Way, and she just won the Man Booker Prize for her own stories, which some guy who learned how to write from Pitchfork says "fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind," whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean. Would you have described a dude's stories as "lithe," guy?

Anyway, Davis is famous for writing short stories that are very short, and here's an example:
They Take Turns Using a Word They Like
"It's extraordinary," says
Oct 28, 2010 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometime in late 2008 or early 2009 I heard a story on This American Life while working out on the elliptical at work. It wasn't a great work-out story, since it nearly brought me to tears. I didn't know the author and quickly forgot about looking it up. Fast forward to the fall of 2009; I went to see Lydia Davis read from her collection of stories at the Philadelphia Library (actually, I went to see Jonathan Lethem, having no idea who Lydia Davis was). Her reading was so amazing and funny that ...more
Willy Schuyesmans
Jun 30, 2015 Willy Schuyesmans rated it really liked it
Wat een ontdekking, die Lydia Davis met haar verzamelde verhalen. De meeste van die verhalen zijn nauwelijks een pagina lang, andere soms zelfs maar een regel of enkele woorden. En af en toe zit er ook een verhaal tussen van een paar pagina's. Ze beschikt over een onvoorstelbare alertheid en opmerkingsgave voor de kleine dingen die rondom haar gebeuren en weet die zo raak neer te schrijven met eenvoudige zinnen. Ze filosofeert, mijmert, denkt luidop na, neemt waar, droomt, en haalde daar zeer te ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lydia Davis' stories are small miracles of writing about thinking, and of thinking about feelings, and about analyzing feelings. And about feeling. Some whole stories are one long sentence long. Or a paragraph. And they take your breath away, and you can't read any more right now. Her language is glitteringly precise, specific and free of adjectival histrionics. Also, occasionally, hilariously laugh-out-loud funny. Also occasionally, shocking. Davis is a MacArthur fellow, and after reading the f ...more
Larry Kaplun
Nov 03, 2010 Larry Kaplun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I love her stories. I love her sentences. I love her humor. To think that I survived without reading Lydia Davis until last year is a tragedy, but don't worry, I discovered her, and so will you. When you read her stories, "The Old Dictionary", "Fear", "New Year's Resolution" and "A Mown Lawn", you'll wonder why everyone on the subway is reading Girl With The Hipster Tattoo, and you'll carry around Davis for the rest of your life. I love her. Read her...goddamnit.
Aug 21, 2010 Toni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bare bones micro-literature at its very best. I found these stories (if "stories" is even the right word; they don't rely much on traditional narrative components) to be just lovely and, well, exquisite. Towards the end of almost 800 pages, I will admit to tiring, just slightly, of the schtick, but still thought this one well worth the read. Unlike anything else I've ever read.
Scott Olejnicak
May 28, 2010 Scott Olejnicak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am moving through these stories very, and intentionally so, slowly. Mind-blowingly excellent! Some of these stories are quite short, only one paragraph. There’s been a couple I’ve read, set the book down, looked up at the ceiling, and breathed out, “Wow!” (Discovered Davis via a review by James Woods in The New Yorker. Thanks you, Mr Woods!)
Jan 28, 2016 Marcus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the work of Lydia Davis. Her stories help me practice mindful living. It is the best self help. I should put self help in quotations. It is more than self help. It is bigger than self help. It is a big self. Big heart. Big mind. Thank you Lydia Davis.
Dec 18, 2009 Cassidy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
AMAZING! Some of my favorite stories so far: "Break it Down", "A Few Things Wrong with Me", What Was Interesting", "Fear" and "Head, Heart"... but so many more to read and come!
I read a handful of stories from this book and decided not to read the whole thing. Based on the reviews I was expecting it to be awesome, and maybe it is, but not for me.
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Flash Fiction: Lydia Davis - The Collected Stories 3 14 Jul 21, 2014 02:48AM  
Lydia's Flyight. 1 15 Jul 25, 2013 02:51PM  
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • Honored Guest
  • We Others: New and Selected Stories
  • The Middle Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • Like You'd Understand, Anyway
  • Stories in the Worst Way
  • The New Yorker Stories
  • Sixty Stories
  • Girl Trouble: Stories
  • The Selected Stories
  • Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories
  • Karate Chop: Stories
  • Venus Drive
  • The Collected Stories
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
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“Like a tropical storm, I, too, may one day become ‘better organized.” 33 likes
“I looked like a woman in glasses, but I had dreams of leading a very different kind of life, the life of a woman who would not wear glasses, the kind of woman I saw from a distance now and then in a bar.” 23 likes
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