Guest host Jane Curtin presents four stories by Lydia Davis, whose work is tiny, but mighty. She’s known for her pithy miniature tales, sometimes as short as a single line, that nevertheless seem fully complete. In 2013 she was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for achievement in fiction. Davis teaches creative writing at the University at Albany.
The provocative “Can’t and Won’t” declares Davis’s terms as a writer; it’s also the title of her new collection of fiction. “If at the Wedding (at the Zoo),” “The Party,” and “The Two Davises and the Rug,” all fall into the category she describes as a form of expanded non-fiction—the details altered just enough to produce humor, surreality and unease. In the first she’s at a wedding, but keeps getting distracted by the local animal life. A party in France becomes a dream tale about carousel horses and apprehensive guests, and a minor encounter with a neighbor over a thrift-sale item become a mock epic of indecision in “The Two Davises and the Rug.” The readers, in order of story, are Davis herself, Kaneza Schaal, Cristin Milioti, and Dylan Baker.
The program’s final story, John Updike’s “The Egg Race,” also takes an ordinary event—a high school reunion—and makes it a cathartic moment for the self-involved narrator. He’s plagued by doubt, but full of muzzy hope, as Updike’s characters often are. The reader is Alec Baldwin.