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Can't and Won't

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  3,602 ratings  ·  527 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
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,602 ratings  ·  527 reviews

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Mar 22, 2015 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
Jul 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
ANSWER: "Can't and Won't"
QUESTION: Will I read another book of "stories" by Lydia Davis?
Jun 17, 2014 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
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."
MJ Nicholls
Jun 05, 2014 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
Dec 14, 2013 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
Sara Kovacs
Sep 04, 2014 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
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:

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
Jul 12, 2016 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
May 03, 2014 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 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
Jun 18, 2014 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
Jun 23, 2014 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.


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:


The Husband
Sentimental Surrealist
So here's the deal: Lydia Davis writes stories where nothing fucking happens, right? People complain about shades of green on food packaging, hear words in the noises their appliances make (I love that story because that happens to me all the goddamn time, and sometimes my mind hears passages of instrumental music as repeated words, mantra that don't make a lot of sense if you will, like how when I was nine years old I decided a piece of music from Pokemon: Blue contained the words "this is... T ...more
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
üç yıldız ve dört yıldız arasında kaldım çünkü bazı öyküler beş yıldızlıkken bazıları daha kötüydü. ama şunu anladım ki çok sevdiğim bir tarz değil kısa kısa öykü. bazıları çok şiirsel, evet, ne güzel ama her aklına geldiğini yazmış gibi duran öyküler de var çokça, belki de ben anlamıyorumdur o kadar, bilemedim.
kitapta en çok beğendiklerim yine 3-5 sayfalık uzun öyküler oldu ki benim edebiyat konusunda hafif tutucu bir tarafım var, yeniye çok alışamıyorum. yeni öykü tarzından miranda july bana d
Apr 24, 2014 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
Apr 27, 2014 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 a ...more
Janet Berkman
Apr 13, 2014 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.
Adam Dalva
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rating a teacher's books is silly, but then again so is not giving this five stars.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Can't and won't recommend Can't and Won't, pretty relieved my library had this and I didn't spend money on it as planned after seeing it mentioned on Durga Chew-Bose's book's blurb.
It's me not you may apply in this case.
Didn't like the choppy writing which seemed like straight from an English textbook for learners of the language, and also didn't like the pointless, pointe-less stories; bar a few exceptions and a few nice sentences.
Gabriela Ventura
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contos
Vocês já experimentaram usar um binóculo pelo outro lado? Qualquer imagem à nossa frente surge nítida, mas miniaturizada. Para mim, os melhores textos da Lydia Davis tem o efeito binóculo-ao-contrário. São pequenas cenas reconhecíveis (uma mulher que gosta de almoçar peixe em restaurantes, vacas pastando no campo para além da janela, listas mentais, cartas escritas para as mais diversas instituições) mas que, ainda assim, parecem estar distantes de nós e da realidade tangível. Há algo de irreal ...more
Apr 26, 2014 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
May 04, 2014 marked it as attempted  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 25, 2014 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.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-stories
feel like i wrote better stories in middle school but ok
G Jara
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muy muy bello. El relato Las focas es impresionante.
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dünya_öykü

Büyük edebiyat nehrinin kısa öykü kolu giderek daha gür akıyor. Her geçen gün daha fazla kısa öykü yazılıyor. Alice Munro'nun Nobel'i alması bunun göstergelerinden yalnızca biri. Türkçede de kitapçılara artık ayrı raf oluşturtacak kadar kısa öykü kitabı birikti.

Lydia Davis ismi Türk okuyuculara pek aşina gelmeyecektir ancak çağdaş Amerikan yazarları arasında müstesna bir yeri olduğu su götürmez. Çoğunlukla kısa öyküler yazan Davis'in yedi tane toplu öykü k
Feb 02, 2015 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.
Julio Reyes
Dec 13, 2014 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.
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2019 readers? 1 1 Feb 10, 2019 02:14PM  
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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
“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.” 17 likes
“Under all this dirt the floor is really very clean.” 11 likes
More quotes…