Can't and Won't
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Lydia Davis
“Idea for a Sign”

“Idea for a Sign” is from Lydia Davis’s latest story collection, CAN’T AND WON’T (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2014.)  Davis is the author of one novel and seven story collections.  Her collection, Varieties of Disturbances: Stories, was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. She is also a translator and her versions of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way (2003) and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (2010) were published to great critical acclaim.


Davis was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government for her fiction and translations (1999), received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (2003), and won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit medal, and the Man Booker International Prize (both 2013).


Davis is noted for her idiosyncratic and extremely short stories often characterized by vivid observations of mostly mundane and routine occurrences.


Writing in the New York Times, Peter Orner, said:  “Some writers have the uncanny ability to slant your experiences. Read enough Lydia Davis and her stories start happening to you.”


He went on to write:  “To read Davis is to become a co-­conspirator in her way of existing in the world, perplexity combined with vivid observation. Our most routine habits can suddenly feel radically new.”

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