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Samuel Johnson Is Indignant: Stories Paperback – September 1, 2002


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Samuel Johnson Is Indignant: Stories + The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420567
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #581,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To herald a Davis book as "the usual" may sound like faint praise, but the writer's loyal fans know that it is anything but. In this latest collection, Davis (Almost No Memory; The End of the Story) doesn't disappoint: the 56 stories paragraph-long meditations, stories in sections and humorous one-liners showcase the wordplay and distillation of meaning that have become her stylistic hallmarks, offering up crisp twists on familiar themes. In "The Meeting," a woman's corporate encounter sparks an internal identity crisis and rant; the childbearing conundrum is nailed in "A Double Negative." Relationships are probed in stories ranging from "Old Mother and the Grouch," with its fancifully imagined characters, to the brief "Finances," which gives voice to the messy issue of domestic equality. There are riffs on mown lawns and the use of the word "cremains" by a funeral parlor, and spooled-out ponderings on domestic priorities, selfishness and boring friends. Communication and language are paramount in Davis's world: an elderly man searches for his brother a language researcher in a hostile environment in "In a Northern Country," and a one-sided question-and-answer session in "Jury Duty" is the more revealing for what is omitted. The title story is an example of the author's famous one-liners that provide initial quick humor, then cause the reader to think again. And a longer story about Marie Curie, told in sections, fascinates with its interior imaginings. Eclectic and astute, Davis continues to find new ways to tell us the things we need to know. (Oct.) Forecast: Davis attracts a cultish core audience, and the low price of this hardcover title should make it an attractive impulse purchase.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Highly intelligent, wildly entertaining stories, bound by visionary, philosophical, comic prose-part Gertrude Stein, part Simone Weil, and pure Lydia Davis."—Elle

"Davis should be counted among the true originals of contemporary American short fiction."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Davis deploys her gift for verbal bemusement, annoyance, and high anxiety . . . [and] converts her characters' complex ruminations into narratives full of insight and pleasure."—The Village Voice

"Her stories are intellectual and playful, and rigorous as brainteasers."—Bookforum

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Short sassy stories.
Deborah M Cardenas
Her strength comes from not being afraid of dive deep in the human soul - and she does so with good humor and sensibility.
A. T. A. Oliveira
I believe Lydia Davis to be one of the great wordsmiths of our time.
Brooks Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Morell on October 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've been quoting her story "Spring Spleen" to people (in its two-sentence entirety) because it's so delightfully short and it conveys its meaning perfectly. I appreciate quirky and inventive writers very much and found SJII to be an enjoyable read. She's up there with Russell Edson and Padgett Powell as a master of the short form.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I love this book and also felt the need to counter the 2 star reviewer who quoted a one line story from the book without including the story title or the italics. Both are essential to taking in the story because Lydia Davis does not waste a word, even on the title. Most of the stories leave the reader with something universal, even when the "univeral thing" goes unsaid. Some of the stories were so close to the bone that I feel I could've written them if I could pare off words as well as she does. I found the book thought provoking and highly entertaining.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Crag Talent on March 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Half the pieces (most can't really be called "stories") will make you think or laugh. The other half will make you go "meh."

Half the stories are brimming with wit and intelligence. The other half sound like pseudo-literary versions of rejected MadTV jokes.

Oh well. There should be enough good stuff to please anyone. Plus, McSweeneys deserves all the support you can give, as they are putting out the best work and in the best format.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on July 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Begin with the not completely irrelevant observation that I plunked down $17 to buy my copy of this book, having been seduced at least in part by McSweeney's hype. Seventeen dollars.

Next, observe that here are some of the book's contents: (Note that each page is quoted in its entirety.)*

Page 14: CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE FROM HERODOTUS
These are the facts about the fish in the Nile:

page 44: SAMUEL JOHNSON IS INDIGNANT:
that Scotland has so few trees.

page 71: HONORING THE SUBJUNCTIVE
It invariably precedes, even if it does not altogether supercede, the determination of what is absolutely desirable and just.

page 73: LOSING MEMORY
You ask me about Edith Wharton.
Well, the name is very familiar.

page 167: AWAY FROM HOME
It has been so long since she used a metaphor!

Well, har-de-har-har, Ms Davis. Words are indeed the precious coins of our linguistic currency, and not to be squandered foolishly. But, given the allegedly beleaguered state of literary fiction these days, with readers scampering away in droves, is it really a wise strategy to adopt such a 'pearls before swine' approach in your writing? God forbid that one should apply as coarse a metric as 'words per dollar' to anyone's literary output, but the Swiss cheese nature of this particular collection left me - how shall I put it? - more than a little peckish at the end.

* These are not the only instances: pages 28, 66, 92, 98, 137, 141, 193, 199, and 200 are characterized by a similar paucity of text.

BUT , I cannot remain upset with you, dearest Lydia.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A quirky collection, some stories are one sentence or one paragraph; others are longer. The subject matter ranges from personal reminiscences to odd observations of nature, people and events. You will never find a better description of a mother’s remorse than “The Old Dictionary.”

“My son needs many other things besides what he needs for his physical care, and these things multiply or change constantly. They can change right in the middle of a sentence. Though I often know, I do not always know just he needs. Even when I know, I am not always able to give it to him. Many times each day I do not give him what he needs. Some of what I do for the old dictionary, though not all, I could do for my son. For instance, I handle it slowly, deliberately, and gently. I consider its age. I treat it with respect. I stop and think before I use it. I know its limitations. I do not encourage it to go further than it can go (for instance to lie open flat on a table). I leave it alone a good deal of the time.”
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By Barbara K. Reifler on March 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Funny and provokotive - Made one think about the odd things in life - promoted discussion in our book club
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By A. T. A. Oliveira on March 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Samuel Johnson is indignant" - and he is not alone. Any reader should be, at least, indignant with Lydia Davis's third short story collection. She writes like nobody else - and nobody else can write like her. It is indignant how capable she is to convey so much meaning with so short stories - some of them are one-line only, and they represent, add, bring so much more than some novels.

When she goes for shortest stories, she is brilliant. They are funny and meaningful. But when Davis deals with longer ones she reaches another level. "Marie Curie, so honorable woman" unfolds the scientist's life in less than 20 pages and covers everything. Told in present tense, the story has an urgency of a life so replete of events that a second can't be wasted.

Most of the narratives are told in the first person - as happens in Davis's previous collections, "Break it down" and "Almost no memory". They sound like slices of her life, her family and friends - maybe an alternative of them. One of the most beautiful stories in this collection is "Letter to a funeral Parlor", in which, a language question reflects the pain of grieving.

With wit and delicacy, Davis investigates mysteries of love, life, death and relationships. Her strength comes from not being afraid of dive deep in the human soul - and she does so with good humor and sensibility.
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