Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Hyper-Ambitious Miniaturist



In a review of Lydia Davis' Essays, James Ley places the U.S. writer's rise inside a period when "hyper-ambitious male novelists" were trapped "in a creative arms race to see who could write the mightiest, brainiest, zeitgeistiest tome." Davis, he argues, went hard in the opposite direction.
She excels as a miniaturist. Though she has published one novel, The End of the Story (1995), she betrays not the slightest interest in making any kind of grand statement. Her stories rarely extend beyond a few pages. Many consist of a single paragraph. Some are no more than a line or two. There is no striving for cultural definitiveness, no panoramic vision or flaunting of intellectual pretensions. Davis’ fiction is narrow in focus and precise in execution, written with an eye for the unusual angle. She is a major writer who produces almost exclusively ‘minor’ work.