9781250062437

Can't and Won't Stories

by
  • ISBN13:

    9781250062437

  • ISBN10:

    1250062438

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 3/31/2015
  • Publisher: Picador

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Summary

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
The New York Times • Los Angeles Times • The Boston Globe

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 mundane disruptions to routine: in "A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates," a professor receives a gift of thirty-two small chocolates and is paralyzed by the multitude of options she imagines for their consumption. The stories may appear in the form of letters of complaint; they may be extracted from Flaubert's correspondence; or they may be inspired by the author's own dreams, or the dreams of friends.
What does not vary throughout Can't and Won't, Lydia Davis's fifth collection of stories, is the power of her finely honed prose. Davis is sharply observant; she is wry or witty or poignant. Above all, she is refreshing. Davis writes with bracing candor and sly humor about the quotidian, revealing the mysterious, the foreign, the alienating, and the pleasurable within the predictable patterns of daily life.

Author Biography

Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and four previous story collections, the most recent of which, Varieties of Disturbance, was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. She is also the acclaimed translator of Swann’s Way (2003) and Madame Bovary (2010), both of which were awarded the French American Foundation Translation Prize. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, published in 2009, was described by James Wood in The New Yorker as a “grand cumulative achievement.” She is the winner of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize.

Table of Contents

I


A Story of Stolen Salamis 3


The Dog Hair 4


Circular Story 5


Idea for a Sign 6


Bloomington 8


The Cook's Lesson 9


At the Bank 10


Awake in the Night 11


At the Bank: 2 12


The Two Davises and the Rug 13


Contingency (vs. Necessity) 18


Brief Incident in Short a, Long a, and Schwa 19


Contingency (vs. Necessity) 2: On Vacation 20


A Story Told to Me by a Friend 21


The Bad Novel 23


After You Left 24


The Bodyguard 26


The Child 27


The Churchyard 28


My Sister and the Queen of En gland 29


The Visit to the Dentist 31


Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer 32


The Cornmeal 33



II


Two Undertakers 37


I Ask Mary About Her Friend, the Depressive, and


His Vacation 38


The Magic of the Train 39


Eating Fish Alone 40


Can't and Won't 46


Pouchet's Wife 47


Dinner 48


The Dog 49


The Grandmother 50


The Dreadful Mucamas 51


Reversible Story 61


A Woman, Thirty 62


How I Know What I Like (Six Versions) 63


Handel 64


The Force of the Subliminal 65


Her Geography: Alabama 67


The Funeral 68


The Husband- Seekers 69


In the Gallery 70


The Low Sun 71


The Landing 72


The Language of the Telephone Company 77


The Coachman and the Worm 78


Letter to a Marketing Manager 80



III


The Last of the Mohicans 85


Grade Two Assignment 86


Master 87


An Awkward Situation 88


House keeping Observation 90


The Execution 91


A Note from the Paperboy 92


In the Train Station 93


The Moon 94


My Footsteps 95


How I Read as Quickly as Possible Through My Back Issues


of the TLS 96


Notes During Long Phone Conversation with Mother 101


Men 102


Negative Emotions 103


I'm Pretty Comfortable, But I Could Be a Little


More Comfortable 105


Judgment 112


The Chairs 113


My Friend's Creation 114


The Piano 115


The Party 116


The Cows 118


The Exhibition 134


Letter to a Peppermint Candy Company 136


Her Geography: Illinois 139



IV


Ödön von Horváth Out Walking 143


On the Train 144


The Problem of the Vacuum Cleaner 145


The Seals 146


Learning Medieval History 171


My School Friend 172


The Piano Lesson 173


The Schoolchildren in the Large Building 174


The Sentence and the Young Man 175


Molly, Female Cat: History/Findings 176


The Letter to the Foundation 179


The Results of One Statistical Study 208


Revise: 1 209


Short Conversation (in Airport Departure Lounge) 210


Revise: 2 211


Left Luggage 212


Waiting for Takeoff 214


Industry 215


The Sky Above Los Angeles 216


Two Characters in a Paragraph 217


Swimming in Egypt 218


The Language of Things in the House 219


The Washerwomen 226


Letter to a Hotel Manager 227


Her Birthday 232



V


My Childhood Friend 235


Their Poor Dog 236


Hello Dear 238


Not Interested 239


Old Woman, Old Fish 242


Staying at the Pharmacist's 243


The Song 245


Two Former Students 246


A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates 247


The Woman Next to Me on the Airplane 251


Writing 252


Wrong Thank- You in Theater 253


The Rooster 254


Sitting with My Little Friend 256


The Old Soldier 257


Two Sligo Lads 259


The Woman in Red 260


If at the Wedding (at the Zoo) 261


The Gold Digger of Goldfi elds 264


The Old Vacuum Cleaner Keeps Dying on Her 266


Flaubert and Point of View 267


Family Shopping 269


Local Obits 270


Letter to the President of the American Biographical


Institute, Inc. 279


Nancy Brown Will Be in Town 282


Ph.D. 283


Notes and Acknowledgments 285


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