Debriefing by Susan Sontag

following my tradition of discovering an author in reverse order, I read Susan Sontag’s journals, then her short stories, and next I’ll move to the essays. I really liked these, many of them are autobiographical or experiment with form, and they’re all beautifully written.

“She once told an interviewer that while the living room is fine for essays, short stories needed to be written in the bedroom. This distinction between outer and inner sancta seems a good way of approaching the contents of this volume. The stories are her innermost work.”
Rating: 9/10

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

when people ask about my favorite book my first answer is usually the book I’m reading at that moment but my second answer is THIS. They’re short stories but also flash fiction but also mostly indescribable. Her voice is the voice you wish was inside your head.

“In fact, I liked teaching because I liked telling other people what to do. In those days it seemed clearer to me than it does now that if I did something a certain way, it had to be right for other people, too. I was so convinced of it that my students were convinced, too.”

Rating: 10/10 (I’ll post a less than 10/10 one next time promise)

Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin

Short stories about women they don’t hate themselves. It’s sort of reminiscent of Barbara the Slut, if you’ve read that, but I think she does an even better job creating redeemable characters and situations almost instantly. Very fun to read.

“The way the women are together is its own foreign country; they move around each other like extensions of a single body, their voices and laughter entangled.”

Rating: 8/10

Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis

“There are also men in the world. Sometimes we forget, and think there are only women—endless hills and plains of unresisting women. We make little jokes and comfort each other and our lives pass quickly. But every now and them, it is true, a man rises unexpectedly in our midst like a pine tree, and looks savagely at us, and sends us hobbling away in great floods to hide in the caves and gullies until he is gone.”

Not only did Lydia Davis basically invent a new genre of fiction, “flash fiction,” she’s also an acclaimed French translator. Like, Madame Bovary and Swann’s Way level acclaimed. Just thinking about her also existing in the world is enough to fill a morning.

These stories stop me cold and then pick me up again. I’ve drawn stars on the corners of all my favorites so whenever I’m sad or uninspired or lost I can just flip straight to them. They make everyday life seem so striking that it’s hard to imagine we’re just living it without event.

Rating:10/10