Break It Down

Break It Down

by Lydia Davis

Published to huge acclaim in the US, Lydia Davis? important debut collection of 34 stories seems to assure us that reality is ordered and reasonable. However, as the characters in the stories prove, misunderstanding and confusion are inherent in everyday life.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Short Stories
  • Rating: 4.05
  • Pages: 177
  • Publish Date: October 3rd 1996 by Serpent's Tail
  • Isbn10: 1852424214
  • Isbn13: 9781852424213

What People Think about "Break It Down"

boneless fiction Its been said that Davis has, with her short stories, created her own genre. Most of the stories in this collection, one of her earliest, are, I believe, fairly representative of her style. They employ a first person narrator much more commonly than usual; there is usually very little in the way of plot; characters are employed sparingly (usually only the narrator, who may be talking about one other person, often unnamed); no dialogue between characters (except in the narration itself: I said and you said ); and at times extremely short stories, a paragraph in some cases, even a sentence. These were probably the best short stories Ive ever read, taking into account how little time they required, and how tempting it was to keep picking up the book. Having finished it, and now moving into her second collection, Almost No Memory, I keep going back to stories in this volume. Heres one of my favorite micro stories.What She Knew People did not know what she knew, that she was not really a woman but a man, often a fat man, but more often, probably, an old man. Themes and Style In the first version of this review, I thought that I could get away with simply presenting the following stories. At any rate, these are the stories, but with a little bit of context, that should make the points better. (The stories themselves are the same as before.) First of all. I said above that Davis employs first person narration often. Yet in the four of these stories that have a narrator, I employed the first person in ALL of them. One day last week, after the sun had risen, watching her, I suddenly saw her look directly at me. I dont know, thats what I looked at. I didnt know what to do. We walked a little ways and sat on a bench. I was thinking of whether to ask if she might want to stay in my place. But I didnt really like the looks of her. She looked disturbed, in five different ways at least. After a while, saying nothing else, she got up and walked up the block, without looking back. I dont think I cared much, I didnt know her. I thought of calling out to her, but remembered that I didnt know her name. I walked away, looking back once, she was still standing in the small waves, up to her waist.

It would be, I think, the perfect break-up book.

Wow, I guess Im not a big fan of Lydia Davis early work. My favourite story was The Fish, which could easily fit into a collection of her later works.

It's not that there aren't flashes of greatness in this ultra-short story collection. But at her very worst, Lydia Davis inundates her readers with terse anecdotes or observations that don't seem to have anything going for them. They aren't linguistically or rhythmically interesting. There's no affective embellishment to the story, no oblique commentary on relationships or foreignness or even fish bones.

This is the second collection of "short stories" by Lydia Davis that I've tried, and it will be my last. The other collection, "Samuel Johnson is Indignant" had enough flashes of genuine wit to make it almost tolerable, despite Ms Davis's predilection for microscopically short "stories" (sometimes no more than a sentence long) and a preternaturally detached prose style. The kind of writing that garners raves from the usual suspects - "The best prose stylist in America" (Rick Moody), "one of most precise and economical writers we have" (Dave Eggers), "few writers now working make the words on the page matter more" (Jonathan Franzen). The dreary 'stories' in this volume adhere to the dismal prevailing conventions of the late 1980s - tales of narcissistic or bipolar protagonists in which nothing much ever happens, served up in a kind of minimalist prose with that knowing ironic detachment.

i feel like lydia davis is peeping in my apartment at night.

one star because the short ones are great!

I heard the story "Break it Down" on This American Life and had to check this collection out.

Lydia Davis, acclaimed fiction writer and translator, is famous in literary circles for her extremely brief and brilliantly inventive short stories. 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 readers interest. Davis recently published a new translation (the first in more than 80 years) of Marcel Prousts masterpiece, Swanns Way (2003), the first volume of Prousts In Search of Lost Time. Writing for the Irish Times, Frank Wynne said, What soars in this new version is the simplicity of language and fidelity to the cambers of Prousts prose Davis translation is magnificent, precise.