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Uploaded by : Benjamin Gottlieb | 11/10/09

  • Title:
    Varieties of Disturbance
  • Artist:
    Lydia Davis
  • Year:
    1999
  • Description:
    Lydia Davis reads her short story "Varieties of Disturbance" at Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania on March 30, 1999. A modified version of the story was later published in 2007 in a collection of the same name. This audio is available via PennSound.
  • Disciplines and Movements:
    LITERATURE and Fiction
  • Themes and Tags:
    subtle, layered, repetition, melancholy, witty and architectural

1 like.
“I love Lydia Davis' voice: it aligns itself so perfectly with her stories, variously betraying and highlighting elements that might, on the page, have gone unnoticed. This is particularly true of this reading of "Varieties of Disturbance," which would several years later be collected, in somewhat changed form, in a volume of the same name. She uses several familiar techniques of hers here: repetition of phrases and words, a slight tongue-in-cheek consideration of the meek absurdities of quotidian existence. In this reading, the tongue-in-cheek element all but disappears, and it is to the great benefit of the story: sometimes her work can read as too eagerly clever, intended to be met with neither nothing less nor nothing quite more than the tedious canned laughter of literary readings. On the page, this story reads almost as just another one of her gentle "exposés" of the habitual structures that undergird much of life and emotion; it reads as if it were meant to be nodded at appreciatively and occasionally elicit a knowing chortle. Here she seems to make an effort to dispel any attempt at a comic approach, and the result feels revelatory: a story that once seemed almost benignly cruel for having placed ostensible cleverness over empathy here eschews both explicit or showy cleverness and empathy and instead seems – as likely it was intended to – almost clinical in its exploration of how presumptions and misunderstandings shape and pervert meaningful relationships, particularly at periods of particularly difficult emotional pitches. It is beneath this clinical treatment that her characters breath and suffer, that they presume and misunderstand; on the page, the story almost reads without this sub-level: the clinical treatment seems instead to point to Davis' excellent observational skills, but seems much-too-easily aloof from the emotions blithely suggested. Here they come across achingly.”
Posted over 4 years ago
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