Lydia Davis, Foucault and Pencil (short story)
The author reading her story (audio file)
‘The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis’
Review by Michelle de Kretser, The Monthly, Australian politics and culture, October 2010
In the United States, Lydia Davis has long been acclaimed for her experiments in short fiction. Elsewhere, she is best known as a translator of French literature and philosophy; in particular, for the 2002 translation of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, where Davis provided the first volume. Her Collected Stories showcases a remarkable formal range, while preserving the impress of Davis’ second profession in recurrent strategies and motifs.
Several stories dissect a statement, an idea, a situation. Consider ‘Foucault and Pencil’: “Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand. Knocked over glass of water onto waiting-room floor. Put down Foucault and pencil, mopped up water, refilled glass. Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand.” Here the nouveau roman, with its minute scrutiny of objects and actions, is echoed and – along with Foucault – gently mocked.