Almost No Memory

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Overview

Philosophical inquiry, examinations of language, and involuted domestic disputes are the focus of Lydia Davis’s inventive collection of short fiction, Almost No Memory. In each of these stories, Davis reveals an empathic, sometimes shattering understanding of human relationships.

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Almost No Memory: Stories

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Overview

Philosophical inquiry, examinations of language, and involuted domestic disputes are the focus of Lydia Davis’s inventive collection of short fiction, Almost No Memory. In each of these stories, Davis reveals an empathic, sometimes shattering understanding of human relationships.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lydia Davis is one of the quiet giants in the world of American fiction.” —Benjamin Weissman, Los Angeles Times

“Frequently poetic and, without question, memorable.” —Liam Callanan, The New York Times Book Reveiw

Rob Spillman

Lydia Davis is a literary citizen you can't help but root for. The author of five previous prickly, difficult, self-conscious works of fiction and the translator of over 20 works in French by such luminous thinkers as Sartre and Foucault, she is also an accomplished teacher and a champion of obscure fiction. Her new book of short stories comes complete with gushy plugs by masters of the form Grace Paley, Stuart Dybec and Charles Baxter.

In Almost No Memory, Davis appears determined to hack apart every preconceived notion of what a short story is. The 51 entrees range from a few sentences to several pages in length and in each one Davis skillfully runs the reader around inescapable mazes, down straight blind alleys and into infinite fictional Mobius strips. She presents all of the emotional and technical tools necessary for a traditional tale, then proceeds to not use them. The opening lines of "What Was Interesting" are emblematic of Davis' continuous short-circuiting: "It is hard for her to write this story, or rather she should say it is hard for her to write it well. She has shown it to a friend, and he has said it needs to be more interesting." Some of her stories are little more than gags; for example "Lord Royston's Tour" is an account of a British nobleman traveling through 19th century Russia, braving near-fatal conditions and the death of several servants, only to be killed by a simple squall off the coast of England.

These stunts masquerading as stories faintly echo Gertrude Stein, minus any semblance of humor or linguistic enthusiasm, not to mention intellectual or literary history. Oscar Wilde's writing on Browning could be applied to Davis: "He did not survey, and it was rarely that he could sing. His work is marred by struggle, violence and effort, and he passed not from emotion to form, but from thought to chaos." These cynical, hyper-analytical exercises might appeal to a few burnt-out grad students, but for the common reader and even for the most adventurous reader, Almost No Memory confirms Davis' lofty stature as a literary creature respected by many, but read by a very select few. -- Salon

Library Journal
The 51 pastiches in this collection are more experimental than Davis's previous novel, The End of the Story, and short story collection, Break It Down. Ranging in length from a single, six-line sentence ('The Outing') to 29 pages ('Lord Royston's Tour'), the selections explore intense feelings in a variety of situations. Frequently using parallel construction, the pieces reveal how someone facing a minor domestic dispute could contort a conversation into an irredeemable confrontation or could behave unnecessarily obsessively. The emotion is very well conveyed and the use of language apt. Occasionally grotesque, the vignettes will appeal to the sophisticated reader, but the lack of closure may frustrate the more traditional. -- Ann Irvine, Montgomery County Public Library, Silver Spring, Maryland
Library Journal
The 51 pastiches in this collection are more experimental than Davis's previous novel, The End of the Story, and short story collection, Break It Down. Ranging in length from a single, six-line sentence ('The Outing') to 29 pages ('Lord Royston's Tour'), the selections explore intense feelings in a variety of situations. Frequently using parallel construction, the pieces reveal how someone facing a minor domestic dispute could contort a conversation into an irredeemable confrontation or could behave unnecessarily obsessively. The emotion is very well conveyed and the use of language apt. Occasionally grotesque, the vignettes will appeal to the sophisticated reader, but the lack of closure may frustrate the more traditional. -- Ann Irvine, Montgomery County Public Library, Silver Spring, Maryland
Liam Callanan
[Davis writes] in compressed prose that is frequently poetic and, without question, memorable. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Soberly eclectic doesn't begin to describe this new assortment of 51 short (often very short) stories from Davis, whose first collection, Break it Down (1986), and novel, The End of the Story (1995), have both received much favorable notice. These disparate tales of quiet desperation range from a long 18th-century travel narrative through the vastness of Russia to views of stultifying small-town life, from a rumination on Glenn Gould to a terse description of marriage as an endless round of bruised feelings and displays of pettiness 'Lord Royston's Tour' chronicles the hardships of a diffident traveler as he encounters one difficulty after another on a journey from the Arctic Circle to Asian deserts, surviving many close calls only to perish at sea on his way home. 'Mr. Knockly' details the pursuit of a strange man by the equally odd narrator, who seeks the reason for the man's despair at her aunt's funeral but never gets the answer: She loses interest, and he is murdered. Other stories also deal with death, including one about a dog that served as part of a house-sitting arrangement ('St. Martin') and another about a woman stabbed by a neighbor as she takes out her trash ('The House Behind"). But the slow torture of a dying relationship is the theme that Davis returns to most frequently, and in such swift, poignant tales as 'Agreement,' 'Our Kindness,' 'The Outing,' and '`How He Is Often Right,' a much larger, yet infinitely more intimate, tragedy involving the loss of love takes shape. With tightly circular and traditionally linear narratives well represented, Atkinson offers a stylistic as well as thematic mix. Meanwhile, strong writing and a somber mood combine tomake this a probing, quietly compelling series of meditations in story form.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312420550
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition description: First Picador Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 502,221
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Lydia Davis is the author of several works of fiction, including Break it Down and The End of the Story. She is also a noted translator, and a collection of stories, The Old Dictionary. She teaches at Bard College and lives in Port Ewen, New York.

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Table of Contents

Meat, My Husband 3
Jack in the Country 8
Foucault and Pencil 10
The Mice 13
The Thirteenth Woman 14
The Professor 15
The Cedar Trees 27
The Cats in the Prison Recreation Hall 29
Wife One in Country 32
The Fish Tank 34
The Center of the Story 35
Love 41
Our Kindness 42
A Natural Disaster 43
Odd Behavior 45
St. Martin 46
Agreement 65
In the Garment District 66
Disagreement 67
The Actors 68
What Was Interesting 70
In the Everglades 77
The Family 79
Trying to Learn 82
To Reiterate 83
Lord Royston's Tour 84
The Other 115
A Friend of Mine 116
This Condition 118
Go Away 120
Pastor Elaine's Newsletter 122
A Man in Our Town 129
A Second Chance 131
Fear 133
Almost No Memory 134
Mr. Knockly 137
How He Is Often Right 147
The Rape of the Tanuk Women 148
What I Feel 150
Lost Things 152
Glenn Gould 153
Smoke 165
From Below, as a Neighbor 167
The Great-grandmothers 168
Ethics 169
The House Behind 171
The Outing 179
A Position at the University 180
Examples of Confusion 181
The Race of the Patient Motorcyclists 189
Affinity 192
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2001

    Plenty of Memory

    Lydia Davis invokes plenty of memories for me. she has a way of finding what is in the unconscious, the past, the hidden fears in the depths of our intimate feelings, then she puts into into words that make it real and concrete.

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