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Essays One

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  30 reviews
A selection of essays on writing and reading by the master short-fiction writer Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis is a writer whose originality, influence, and wit are beyond compare. Jonathan Franzen has called her "a magician of self-consciousness," while Rick Moody hails her as "the best prose stylist in America." And for Claire Messud, "Davis's signal gift is to make us feel
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published October 22nd 2019)
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Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Essential for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of great sentence construction, how Davis composes her work, what inspires and has inspired it, or even if you just want to spend time with a rarely perceptive mind. You'll also have a few names to add to the TBR.
Lydia Davis is one of my favorite writers--smart, always interesting, thought-provoking. Her short (and short-short) stories are clever, often funny, and stimulate my imagination. And she is a superb translator (Madame Bovary, Proust's Swann's Way).

My favorite of these essays are those describing her own writing process. Davis weighs every word she uses--she appears to be as careful a writer as Flaubert himself. I loved reading about how she makes her choices, what guides her, how she thinks as
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-bought
A remarkable collection of essays by the brilliant prose writer Lydia Davis. I recommend this book to those who write. The first piece in the book "The Practice of Writing" is essential advice in choosing one's words correctly and economically. Also pieces on translations, essay writing, history, and art criticism. A brilliant cocktail of a book.
Jeff Jackson
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A true treasure trove. Terrific essays on under-read visionaries like Blanchot, Mallarme, Joubert, Butor, and Leiris, plus some of the best practical writing advice I've ever encountered.
Possibly in Michigan, London
Nov 17, 2019 is currently reading it
Goddamn, this is how it must have felt being the first person to read the King James Bible. I am a massive atheist, but Lydia Davis's brain would be my religion, if I had to choose one.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
(1) Work on your character. (2) Work on your handling of language so that you know what youre doing and can do it well and be in control. (3) Know your languageits words and phrases and idiomsdeeply through every kind of study of it. (4) Say what you want to say without inhibition, in the way you want to say it, regardless of what other people might think (but with sensitivity to the feelings of others). (5) Work hard (write a lot), and be patient. Five cardinal rules, from Thirty
Bert Hirsch
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book contains several gems. Lydia Davis, an accomplished writer and translator, who is best known for her flash fiction pieces, is a master at recognizing the magic in small events, daily observations and everyday interactions amongst ordinary people.

I spent considerable time reading through the sections of essays entitled "The Practice of Writing". In simple terms she shares many of the recommendations she has made to her own students. She highly recommends that any student of writing
Cristie Underwood
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
This was such a well written collection of essays about Lydia Davis' experiences over decades. Since she usually writes fiction, I was hesitant about this one, but was hooked after reading the first essay. The writing is spectacular and I am hoping there is another volume being written!
Kathleen Flynn
I didn't entirely read this before my time was up and I had to return it to the library, but the parts about writing advice are excellent and highly recommended!
Peter Rock
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a startling pleasure, always.

13. If you want to be original, dont labor to be original. Rather work on yourself, your mind, and then say what you think. This was Stendhals advice. Actually, he said: If you want to be witty, work on your character and say what you think, on every occasion. Where did I find this quote? In my New Basics Cookbook.

But I prefer my adaptation of his advice: if you want to be original, cultivate yourself, enrich your mind, develop your empathy, your understanding
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Er staan een aantal puntige, scherpe, grappige essays in. Er staan een aantal slimme, taaie, vermoeiende essays in.

Wat uit elk essay spreekt, is Davis' voorliefde voor het exacte woord op de juiste plaats. Het maakt me erg benieuwd naar de Engelstalige uitgave.
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this entire book in one sitting. I don't know if I would recommend that, although I certainly recommend the book. It is a delectable glimpse at Davis' habits of mind.
Andrew Bertaina
What I will most remember is how infectious Lydia Davis' praise of the writers she's translated is. It's difficult not to want to read every writer she suggests. I suppose because, as a translator, she has been such precious time with their work. Imagine having to tenderly choose word after word when attending to the prose of a writer. Even if difficult, how could you not grow to love them? She also has capacious recommendations for writers to read and habits to practice. As an occasional ...more
Nathan Albright
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2020
There is always something intriguing about reading the essays of someone whose other works one is entirely unfamiliar with.  Since one comes in with no expectations, one is free to examine the author's small works for what he or she thinks is of particular importance.  To be fair, most of these essays are not particularly outstanding examples of writing, and for the most part the author shows herself (like many essayists) to be somewhat self-centered.  In many ways this is an inevitable result ...more
Devina Heriyanto
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading Lydia Davis has always made me wonder how she could do so much with so little words. The writings in Essays: One show the hard work and long process behind her tight and concise stories. Through the essays, Davis provides an insight into how she sees, reads, thinks, writes, and revises her works. A huge chunk of the book is dedicated to the writers which influence her writing, and why these writers matter a great deal to her.

The most interesting parts in the book are perhaps when Lydia
Antonio Delgado
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lessons from a Master. Lydia Davis collection is must have and read and reread for anyone interested in words, language, writing, thinking and reading. The collection is eclectic in themes and directions. From her own writing to others, from her personal memories to the memories of other, Davis' perspective on literature is one of the modern aesthetics in which everything is put into question.
Alex Yard
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
What it comes down to is, this just isn't my cup of tea. Some of the pieces where she would break down and analyze a poem were just excruciating, a DVD commentary style thing that just takes the enjoyment out of it. Davis even admits it herself that she can't simply enjoy a good poem these days, because she is so distracted by thinking about the ways that it is good.
Greg Fanoe
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Some of the essays were among the best things I've read all year (such as "As I Was Reading"), lots were fairly boring, but in the end I am always happy to read Ms. Davis's writing. The prefaces she wrote to other books were all highlights.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
The essays I loved I loved. Many were okay, skipped a few.
An unabashed cause for joy, these essays offer us crisp and lively glimpses of the inner workings, preoccupations, and passions of a singular writer. It's a kind of master class in reading, writing, and, perhaps most crucially, engaging with the world, in all its many forms. Inspirational.
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, march
Great writing, mostly about art and artists.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I think I have to agree with the New York Times Book Review on this one...mostly full of piss and wind.
Elbrackeen Brackeen
Sep 19, 2019 marked it as to-read
kirkus 09/19
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
o wow v good
Dan Abromowitz
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
great essays and a very pleasing bookshape
James Woods
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another brilliant collection of stories from Lydia Davis. A book very much orientated for those in love with litetarure and books in general. Great craftmanship and entertaining read.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ahhhhhh! Shes just so damn brilliant. So many of the essays in this collection were wonderful (especially those containing craft lessons or deconstructions of other works). ...more
Rita Ciresi
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Its super useful to have these thought-provoking essays on literature, art, and the writing life collected in one volume. ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Review forthcoming at Spectrum Culture.
Charlie Miller
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an absolutely fantastic collection of essays. I mostly know Davis for her short stories, but it was great to get a better understanding of her life and work through these non-fiction pieces. My favorites were the "Forms and Influences" essays, four in total, which discuss her methods and the other writers she's read over the years. Because her stories are so short, there are a couple of instances where she was able to include several versions of the same story in its entirety in order ...more
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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 Daviss work for showing how language itself can entertain, how all that what one word says, and leaves unsaid, can hold a ...more

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