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Can’t and Won’t 

by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


If you’re into Lydia Davis, you’ll find exactly what you’d expect to in Can’t and Won’t, her first collection since Collected Stories was published five years ago. If you’re not, here’s what you need to know: her stories aren’t really stories, they’re snippets; usually have no characters beyond the “I” (the speaker); the majority are one to two pages, and some are as short as one sentence. The indistinguishableness between old and new Davis is both good and bad. Good because she’s funny, and has an eye for harrowing details---this combination can be profound. But bad because I expected more from a Booker Prize winner, and it’s disappointing to see that she hasn’t developed much since her last collection. The book is nevertheless worth picking up, but don’t feel guilty for skipping the ones that don’t grab you right away.

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