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Break it Down

Lydia Davis • 1986

I thought it was extremely good, which is to say — very solid and nothing but that. The flash fiction pieces were my favorite, and every single piece was extremely well crafted, but this is a collection that opts for precision over accuracy and her stories are so scientific in nature that I felt like I was spending so much time with the exact same arc, over and over again. A quote that I cannot find describes Davis' work as "skyscrapers in the desert", and that's a poetic and apt description — but this collection made me feel like I was visiting the same city thirty times in a row.

1/22/2022
✭✭✭
Short Stories

Highlights

She reads a book about Zen and she writes down on a piece of paper the eight parts of Buddha's eight-fold path and thinks she might follow it. She sees that it mainly involves doing everything right.
‘There was once a man who was very stupid. When he got up in the morning it was so hard for him to find his clothes that at night he almost hesitated to go to bed for thinking of the trouble he would have on waking. One evening he took paper and pencil and with great effort, as he undressed, noted down exactly where he put everything he had on. The next morning, well pleased with himself, he took the slip of paper in his hand and read: “cap”—there it was, he set it on his head; “pants”—there they lay, he got into them; and so it went until he was fully dressed. But now he was overcome with consternation, and he said to himself: “This is all very well, I have found my clothes and I am dressed, but where am I myself? Where in the world am I?” And he looked and looked, but it was a vain search; he could not find himself. And that is how it is with us, said the rabbi.’
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