Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and several collections of short fiction. She is also the translator of numerous works from the French, most recently Flaubert's Madame Bovary for Penguin Classics. She was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government and is also the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. Here, she shares what she's recently been reading...
Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison
A novel in the unusual form of 600 or so numbered and (some of them) titled small sections that combine in a disjunctive but roughly linear way to create an engaging narrative involving family and friends, boyfriends and (several) "exes," some of them dysfunctional, some merely eccentric and strong-minded. Robison writes in a vibrant style with the economy and emotional force of another Grace Paley, but with a harder edge. And she's quite funny.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
I thought I would encounter a lot of familiar material in Foer's book, since I have read some others on the same topic, but with every page I read, my eyes are opened further to the full catastrophe of present-day food production methods, not just in the USA but globally. (And Foer has been scrupulous in his research, hiring two fact-checkers to verify all his findings.) In London this past summer I had dinner with a convivial table of new acquaintances, of whom two had already been moved by Foer's book to change their eating habits; now I, too, am making further changes to a mostly vegetarian diet: no more diner omelettes! No more fish dinners! It is hard not to be affected, if only (a big hurdle) one can face the unpalatable facts. (And as Foer points out, as long as we continue to give our tacit consent to them, the abominable practices will remain in place.)
Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill
I have just begun this one, and already I'm relishing Athill's graceful, well-balanced prose and warm, inclusive intelligence. I have read two of her later memoirs, Stet andYesterday Morning, and I expect to derive the same pleasure from spending time in her company again, in the course of this book, and experiencing those years of the last century as she so richly describes them. (Then I plan to continue with After the Funeraland Somewhere Towards the End.)