Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis

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Lydia Davis has been called “one of the quiet giants in the world of American fiction” (Los Angeles Times), “an American virtuoso of the short story form” (Salon), an innovator who attempts “to remake the model of the modern short story” (The New York Times Book Review). Her admirers include Grace Paley, Jonathan Franzen, and Zadie Smith; as Time magazine observed, her stories are “moving . . . and somehow inevitable, as if she has written what we were all on the verge of thinking.”

In Varieties of Disturbance, her fourth collection, Davis extends her reach as never before in stories that take every form from sociological studies to concise poems. Her subjects include the five senses, fourth-graders, good taste, and tropical storms. She offers a reinterpretation of insomnia and re-creates the ordeals of Kafka in the kitchen. She questions the lengths to which one should go to save the life of a caterpillar, proposes a clear account of the sexual act, rides the bus, probes the limits of marital fidelity, and unlocks the secret to a long and happy life.

No two of these fictions are alike. And yet in each, Davis rearranges our view of the world by looking beyond our preconceptions to a bizarre truth, a source of delight and surprise. Varieties of Disturbance is a 2007 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

About Lydia Davis

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Lydia Davis is the author of the story collections Almost No Memory (Picador, 2001) and Break it Down, and the novel The End of the Story. She has won the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation Award, the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Award and a Chevalier from the French government.
Published May 15, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 219 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Varieties of Disturbance

Kirkus Reviews

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Davis, an esteemed translator from French, writes in the tradition of the French postmodernists and surrealists.

Mar 15 2007 | Read Full Review of Varieties of Disturbance: Sto...

The New York Times

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Davis’s incantatory sentences seem to show a being who has transcended limits in his very awareness of limits, which leads us to think that growing up is largely a measure of how far we stray from that first, initial perfection.

May 27 2007 | Read Full Review of Varieties of Disturbance: Sto...

New York Magazine

Some of Lydia Davis's stories are very, very short.

Jun 20 2007 | Read Full Review of Varieties of Disturbance: Sto...

Daily Camera

In this story and others that Davis wrote in the form of case studies, the narrator states facts about the subjects simply, but reveals far more about the subjects' psychology than most observers could glean.

Sep 14 2007 | Read Full Review of Varieties of Disturbance: Sto...

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