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.