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Almost No Memory: Stories Paperback – September 8, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The 51 pastiches in this collection are more experimental than Davis's previous novel, The End of the Story (LJ 1/95), and short story collection, Break It Down (Farrar, 1986) Ranging in length from a single, six-line sentence ("The Outing") to 29 pages ("Lord Royston's Tour"), the selections explore intense feelings in a variety of situations. Frequently using parallel construction, the pieces reveal how someone facing a minor domestic dispute could contort a conversation into an irredeemable confrontation or could behave unnecessarily obsessively. The emotion is very well conveyed and the use of language apt. Occasionally grotesque, the vignettes will appeal to the sophisticated reader, but the lack of closure may frustrate the more traditional.?Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Silver Spring, Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Soberly eclectic doesn't begin to describe this new assortment of 51 short (often very short) stories from Davis, whose first collection, Break it Down (1986), and novel, The End of the Story (1995), have both received much favorable notice. These disparate tales of quiet desperation range from a long 18th-century travel narrative through the vastness of Russia to views of stultifying small-town life, from a rumination on Glenn Gould to a terse description of marriage as an endless round of bruised feelings and displays of pettiness. ``Lord Royston's Tour'' chronicles the hardships of a diffident traveler as he encounters one difficulty after another on a journey from the Arctic Circle to Asian deserts, surviving many close calls only to perish at sea on his way home. ``Mr. Knockly'' details the pursuit of a strange man by the equally odd narrator, who seeks the reason for the man's despair at her aunt's funeral but never gets the answer: She loses interest, and he is murdered. Other stories also deal with death, including one about a dog that served as part of a house-sitting arrangement (``St. Martin'') and another about a woman stabbed by a neighbor as she takes out her trash (``The House Behind''). But the slow torture of a dying relationship is the theme that Davis returns to most frequently, and in such swift, poignant tales as ``Agreement,'' ``Our Kindness,'' ``The Outing,'' and ``How He Is Often Right,'' a much larger, yet infinitely more intimate, tragedy involving the loss of love takes shape. With tightly circular and traditionally linear narratives well represented, Atkinson offers a stylistic as well as thematic mix. Meanwhile, strong writing and a somber mood combine to make this a probing, quietly compelling series of meditations in story form. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420550
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M Shep on October 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I've never written a review before but I had to after reading the only customer review listed for Almost No Memory. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not in her book group.
These stories are fantastic -- each one is a grab at life; each one sings a truth. Just read a few sentences (or a few stories; many are quite short) in the bookstore and see for yourself. If the writing doesn't grab you right away, then you'd probably line up with the disappointed book groupers. If it does . . . enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason A. Newman on April 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Davis has an acute sense-memory, it seems, and her erudite, yet brilliantly emotive, prose stays with you for days and days. You keep going back to it, reading a story here, reading one there, until you realize, without regret, that you've read the whole thing a hundred blessed times.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Todd Colby on January 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
All of the stories in this book have an awe inspiring precision and simplicity that hides some of the real work that I'm sure went into these pieces. Check out End of The Story if you want to see her talents put into the novel form...a sadly under appreciated book if ever there was one...I think Lydia Davis is one of the best contemporary writers and translators in the U.S. I can't wait to read her translation of Proust which is due out in the next year or so...
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 23, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While Lydia Davis can crystallize so much in a short short, her metafictional style begins to cloy. It may be the first person point of view, or the use of present tense, or the constant references to what the character is writing at that moment, but so many of these stories sound like they flow from the author's journal, rather than from a planned fictional arc. Frequently they are mere moments, rather than stories in which something happens, and leave this reader--who picked up the book looking for something more daring--longing for the traditional. Overall, this was disappointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ghost Writer on July 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This will sound snobbish, but there's no avoiding it: Lydia Davis' work is not for everybody. Some people won't understand her humor. But for those who can, this is the stuff. "Lord Royston's Tour, " to name one, is the funniest and best story in the English language. I made a fool of myself giggling at it in a laundromat. . .
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Format: Paperback
Stories are made up. Broadly, poetry speaks truth. Which are these? The humour (bleak, but still) gives us a clue. Narrative is less keen to subvert itself in this way. At best these are stories about stories, or stories that are all too close to home

I was a bit nervous about reading this because her subsequent book is an all-time favourite of mine (that title! that cover!) but I was entranced. Another careful assemblage incorporating uncollected pieces from as long ago as 1986, and even several from her scarce 1976 debut. (The following volume did likewise, but at least distinguished them typographically.).

At first draught these texts (is story quite the right word? more Lydian mischief) are awful dry. This is domestic tragicomedy. The narrator-figure is of course absurd - aren't we all? But then we start to love the aridity. 'Since it had been so hard for me to find this beauty [in the American west] I didn't want to leave it.' The Professor, quoted above, would make a fine anthology piece - gee it's poignant! - while St. Martin (properly Saint Martin, pronounced French-style) is a 20-page object lesson in descriptive writing Disturbingly confessional, sometimes with a heady whiff of Proust (' is it that we do not want to do what we so much believe we want to do?', or see A Friend of Mine), and did I mention the bleakness? (A Second Chance.) Darn it I think I'm smitten

Putting out all her stories to date thrust Davis into momentary dizzying prominence, but can that doorstop of a collected (not even chronologically ordered, just her four main books lumped together) possibly be as much fun?
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Format: Paperback
This collection of 51 short stories, little fictions, and prose poems by Lydia Davis intrigues and rewards. The pieces come in every length. There's the 46-word "Odd Behavior," and at the center of the book, Davis gives us a forty page story, "Lord Royston's Tour," an extraordinary period travelog, written perfectly in the syntax and idioms of early nineteenth century Britain: "...a good deal tossed and beaten about off the Skaw, before sailing up the river." We learn in after-credits that the tale was adapted from a memoir Davis found, written in 1838.
She employs many styles, tones, and voices. The pieces come variously comic, peculiar, tragic, surreal, mysterious, whimsical, quirky, lyrical, cerebral, and earthy. Some are faintly Kafakaesque, Borgesian, Beckett-echoing, and most have plenty of Davis's originality. Some are very ambitious, others narrow in intent. Each defines its own terms as a fiction. If the reader finds one piece less than compelling, he eagerly continues, if only to see what she will come up with next. And is soon again enthralled. There are meta-fictions, such as "The Center of the Story," and a number of the pieces seem to be written for an audience of writers and sophisticated readers. Other pieces aim more broadly.
In "This Condition" the narrator conveys a state of generalized erotic feeling. It's lovely, sexy writing, a prose poem, with no single object of desire-- sexuality finding its echo in the universe of animals, minerals, vegetables; ideas, maps, texts. A sort of erotica for the lover of life.
In "The Professor," Davis's narrator, teaching English out West, reveals a fantasy of marrying a cowboy.
"...I started listening to country Western music on the car radio, though I knew it wasn't written for me.
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