The writer down the block: Lydia Davis on an author's place in the community


Scanning interviews with this year's National Book Award noms, I found comments by Lydia Davis (nominated for her story collection Varieties of Disturbance) particularly refreshing and down to earth.

Asked about the role of the writer "in a country such as ours, where reading is in such a state of crisis", Davis responded evenly:

I don't want to say how discouraging I find the decline of reading. I suppose as a fiction writer all one can do is be a friendly, positive "representative" of writers and writing among the larger public that doesn't read much--and hope at least to remind people that writers exist and have recognizable human form. In both my former and my present neighborhoods I have been glad to be one of the local writers, the writer down the block, organizing a reading series at the local library, or meeting with the girl scout troop to talk about what they read, etc.--and my neighbors in turn have enjoyed talking to me about writing and books, and have even read my books. I suppose that sort of interaction does no harm, at least.


Hey, Lydia. Would you be, could you be, won't you be my neighbor?

(And please note my remarkable restraint in commenting on the list of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry nominees, a group in which there are very few vaginae and even less melanin. The Dead White Guy Brigade you studied in Lit 101 lives on.)

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