« Philosophically speaking | Main | Targeted journalists »

May 28, 2007


I love your analysis of Davis's use of blank space to "textually manifest the overrunning loneliness and alienation themes." She is first and foremost an existential author, but sometimes the flip, humorous nature of her stories disguises the serious critical eye one must bring to them. In fact, you can't just read one or two of her stories--you have to read an entire collection to understand your comment about the inherent loneliness of her narrators.

I've read most of her work, but my favorite is Break It Down, which I recently wrote about in Lit Matters (http://litmatters.blogspot.com/.)

I just discovered what I wrote about Davis when I discovered her in my MFA program: "Once a Very Stupid Man" places identity in relation to another and makes that relation entirely superficial. She needs him to clothe her, to provide her exterior definition, but as the stupid man says in the fable, "This is all very well, I have found my clothes and I am dressed, but where am I myself? Where in the world am I?" By emphasizing "where" instead of "who" in this question of identity, Davis shifts the focus of identity from being a matter of content to being a matter of point of view.

She becomes the bearded man because writes "they had disturbed the bearded man writing at the next table," and notices that she herself sits at the next table and she is writing. She is placed in the paradox of whether she is an independent agent or whether she is simply a mirror of the world. Do we create the text or does the text create us?

I love your comment about "Davis’ intentions is to use the widely varying lengths of stories to—yet again—textually manifest the overrunning loneliness and alienation themes." If that's not her intention, it's certainly the effect.

Sometimes Davis's stories can seem flip or offhand, so I think it's truly necessary to read an entire collection to perceive the effect you mention.

I love how her stories aren't really stories, but spontaneous bursts that don't seek beginnings, middles, and endings, yet comment both darkly and humorously on existential topics.

I've written more extensively about her in Lit Matters (http://litmatters.blogspot.com/).

Thanks so much for your astute analysis.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • Isak is a space to celebrate tales and truth in the curious, joyful way embodied by the writer for which it is named. The name "Isak," after all, means "laughter," as she was fond of pointing out.

    By tales, I mean fiction (especially short fiction), as well as other literary and artistic narratives. By truth, I mean the world in which we live. I especially have my eye on creative social justice.

    Isak: The Extended Version
join the mailing list
* indicates required

Choose Books

My Photo

Support Isak

  • For more than eight years, I've edited Isak, supporting it with my time and treasure. This site has always been ad-free. If you find this website valuable, and are moved to contribute a donation, I will be deeply grateful.