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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

94. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

I have read this before (FSG, 2009), close to the time when it came out. I enjoyed re-reading it, but not always as much as the first time. The rather uniformly bland style, the arch tone, become tedious; the humor less sharp. I skip over some of the longer stories. Davis peaks (for me) in her 2007 collection Varieties of Disturbance, though by the time I get to this I am a bit fatigued. She is an important enough short-story writer to merit a Collected, weighing in at more than 700 pages. I am among her admirers, and now remember a time at "poetini" when I read aloud some of the short stories to the group. Perhaps because I am not reading them aloud, to a group, they have less effect on me. I am not getting the approval of listeners. Some remain quite funny on re-reading, and my reservations about her style have partly to do with the effect it has on my one thought processes. I begin to express my internal thoughts in a way reminiscent of her bland, arch style.

The story "Mrs. D. and her maids" is quite amusing. Also, a story in which get well letters from a class of children are analyzed in dead-pan style. I don't quite make it through my re-reading of a highly descriptive story about two old women who retain their health and vitality. Still, I have pleasant memories of reading it, and don't want to spoil those memories with the possible tedium of repetition.

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