December 2, 2014

Dec 2

Break it Down

Lydia Davis


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SOLD: $5,000

First edition, signed on title-page. In keeping with the minimalist style of many of the stories in this collection, Davis provides deft, compact insights into her work. “I never realized until the latest collection of stories (Can’t and Won’t) how often fish reappeared in my stories.” Her story “The Mouse” was inspired by Robert Creeley. “He, like W. C. [William Carlos] Williams, was a skilled story-teller as well as poet.” “Extracts from a Life” is “the first in which I plundered, or re-fashioned, another text. Another favorite, because of the lovely language, which is mostly Suzuki’s.” The extremely short and powerful “In a House Besieged” conveys in just 65 words a deep and wide range of human emotions and terrors, was “a very early story – 1973” set “in the countryside of the Ver” region of France, where Davis lived for a time. In “A Few Things Wrong with Me,” she explains that “I have never felt I had to give a character a proper name – or at least it has been a long time since I felt I had to.” Her story about the poor and homeless in New York City, “City Employment,” prompts the observation that “NYC still does not take proper care of its homeless and mentally ill.” The short, caustic ‘The Mother,” about an unpleaseable parent was, not surprisingly, “not one of my Mother’s favorites.”

DAVIS, Lydia (b. 1947). Break It Down. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.



© Theo Cote

Lydia Davis is the author, most recently, of the story collection Can’t and Won’t and a new version of the 1898 children’s classic Bob, Son of Battle: The Last Gray Dog of Kenmuir, by Alfred Ollivant. Her Collected Stories appeared in 2009 and her chapbook entitled The Cows was published in 2011. She is also the translator of numerous works from the French, including Proust’s Swann’s Way and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, both of which were awarded the French-American Foundation’s Annual Translation Prize. Among other honors, Davis was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2003, and in 2013 received both the Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Man Booker International Prize. She is currently working on translations of very short stories from the Dutch by A.L. Snijders.