Posted by: Sally Ingraham | May 27, 2010

Lydia Davis on Lake Winnipesaukee

Work was crazy last week, and the madness of Memorial Day Weekend is looming, with the full blast of summer in a tourist town coming hot on its heels, so when I had the opportunity to drop everything and leave the entire state for three days I did. A friend and I went down to NH to stay on Lake Winnipesaukee at Weirs Beach, in a little cabin right on the channel. It was brilliantly hot, and we did a bit of exploring, worked on our tans, tried out the water at not just Lake Winnipesaukee but at Newfound Lake and Echo Lake and a series of waterfalls and pools called Diana’s Bath, among other places, and ate lots of fresh local asparagus and spinach and grilled corn on the cob and….it was wonderful.

I didn’t touch my computer except to play music while we were lounging around on the private beach near our cabin. I did read most of Tender Morsels, and the last few stories in a collection by Lydia Davis, but I still haven’t read The South, the final Borges story for our non-structured group read… From a brief glance through the blog posts and discussions it looks like it was a good one though, and I’m definitely not through with Borges yet. Renewed my copy of Collected Fictions. 🙂

lydia davisI’ll post a picture or two from my Weirs Beach adventure when I get a chance, and I’ll just add quickly, since a proper review seems unlikely, that I liked Samuel Johnson is Indignant by Lydia Davis, but not as much as I had expected. Some of the stories were really good – In a Northern Country was my favorite. It had so much atmosphere and mystery, and the writing was lovely. I also liked some of the tiny little stories, such as They Take Turns Using a Word They Like:

‘”It’s extraordinary,” says one woman.
“It is extraordinary,” says the other.’

Overall the collection seemed kind of choppy to me, with a particularly witty piece followed by a totally “meh” one. I wasn’t as consistently pleased with the stories as I had thought I would be, but that expectation was based on Davis’ wonderful translation of Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. This was my first experience of her own work and I will definitely be seeking out more, since there was certainly plenty to love about her writing.

Back to work now. It should be somewhat quiet today – the calm before the storm. Maybe I’ll have time to finished Tender Morsels! 🙂


  1. I’m so in need of a break like this it’s not even funny. Relaxing by the lake in NH sounds delightful, & even more so with Lydia Davis & Margo Lanagan to keep you company. Jealous!

    • I hope you can find time for such a break. I highly recommend it! It took all the willpower I had to make myself come back… 🙂

  2. I’m with Emily on that count. I really need a break. Finished Tender Morsels and just need to get writing. Probably not until tomorrow afternoon.

    Hope you work a groove into those Davis short stories. Once I picked up the cadence with her it was all love. Took a little reading in for me too.

    • Hopefully with school coming to an end soon you’ll get some vacation time? It took me a long time to realize that not everyone got summers off the way my Dad did, all the years that he was a teacher! I’m still miffed about that. 🙂

      I’m looking forward to reading more Davis for sure.

  3. I recently read her first collection, Break It Down. And I know what you mean about inconsistencies: Although I was often awestruck by most of her stories, some were “Okay enough.” Which for me, I guess, is okay enough. 😉 At least they weren’t bad, I thought, haha. Eventually, as Frances pointed out above, once you get in the Davis groove, it gets really really good.

    And it looks like you enjoyed it still, so, YAY. ;p

    On a translation-related work, I found out that Davis has translated Madame Bovary, and that’s got a fall release. I’m definitely reading that one–my first Flaubert, and through the words of one of my favorite writers.

    • Oh yes, I’m totally psyched about Davis’ translation of Madam Bovary. Can’t wait to read it, and like you it will be my first Flaubert. Frances posted about the book not too long ago, and I have to say the cover artwork alone is enough to make me pick it up.

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