Friday, April 3, 2009

THE SADDEST NEWS: The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Sadder even than the famous three saddest words in the English language according to Gore Vidal--- Joyce Carol Oates--- I see that Farrar, Straus & Giroux is about to unleash the collected stories of Lydia Davis in the Fall.

Sad, so sad that Lydia Davis was caught by the virus of wanting to be a so-called creative writer and this virus has for the most part stopped her from being truly socially useful as a translator, a vocation that she was so good in and if she had persisted she could easily be ranked with those other two great translators Helen Lane and Barbara Wright to whom all English speakers are indebted to for having providing some of the most important translations in modern times.

This all too common virus has stopped Davis from finishing her translation of Michel Leiris’s great autobiography RULES OF THE GAME of which she masterfully translated two of the four volumes. RULES OF THE GAME is the most important autobiography in modern literature.

And one can only deeply and profoundly regret the writing of these pathetic pale exhibitions of experimental prose has taken the place of Davis possibly translating Leiris’s PHANTOM AFRICA or some of the many books by Marcel Jouhandeau whose life and work embodied all the terrible modern dilemmas of trust, sexuality, religion and the temptations of extremist politics.

And I am sure I have only scratched the surface of what should be made available in English and sadly it seems that Davis will not have a leading role in that but instead: almost 700 pages of creative writing… Maybe the publishers should have held out for another two hundred pages and Davis could challenge James Joyce’s Ulysses at least in the matter of length.

Interestingly,the publishers have also decided that Davis's work should be compared to the Velvet Underground and helpfully note that the Velvet Underground is a rock band. Nico the most important member of that band is rolling in derisions of laughter in her Berlin grave at the impertinence of this comparison.


Richard said...

How odd. Lydia Davis' stories are marvelous. Meanwhile, she's been writing them for around 30 years. Somehow I doubt they've negatively impacted her ability to do her translations.

Unknown said...

I think you kind of missed the point of this post. To me it fulfils the epochal destiny of the Internet or whatever - especially (but obviously not exclusively) for anyone who's read Swann's Way/Death Sentence and tried to read the End of the Affair/Story...even if Proust is somewhat of a counter example to the whole time better spent argument.

Anonymous said...

Man, Tom, you're a sad crank.

Anonymous said...

Bizarre take on her talents and priorities, as well as the priority of translation over creative writing, the virus that it is. What an odd man.

Kevin said...

The main point is that the stystem rewards reputation over achievement, social networking over serious thinking. A career comes about when you gull people into thinking that you're a fad. Tom maybe a bit cranky but he has some critical standards even if most people don't.

Anonymous said...

Two corrections:

Lydia Davis' stories reflect literary genius. You don't see that. Sad, so sad.

Why in the world would you leave Robert Fagles out as one of the greatest translators. Did you forget for the moment? I thought I would remind you.


Anonymous said...

Two words: Madame Bovary. Look for Davis's translation in fall 2010, jerk.

Anonymous said...

wow. have you ever got it wrong. and, btw, nico is certainly not the most important member of the velvet underground. so, both your take on davis' talents and music history are completely off mark.