Lydia Davis on Language and Literature | Conversations with Tyler Podcast Summary

Lydia Davis on Language and Literature | Free Podcast Summary

Lydia Davis on Language and Literature | Conversations with Tyler

In this insightful conversation, Lydia Davis, a renowned translator, author, and former professor of creative writing, shares her deep-rooted love for language and literature.

She discusses her fascination with the richness of the English language, her creative process, and her experiences with translation.

Davis also shares her thoughts on various topics, including the evolution of her writing, her teaching approach, and her reading experiences.

Rewarding Reading Experiences

Davis shares her rewarding experience with reading ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘Beowulf’ as part of a high-minded book club.

She enjoyed the cumulative effect of ‘Don Quixote’ and compared different translations of these works, noting the differences in how closely they adhered to the original text.

I didn’t like to give out a curriculum at the beginning. This is what we’re going to do every week till the end of the term because I never knew. I like to see what they needed or see what I was reading or see what occurred to me and give the next assignment based on that rather than something I had already decided. – Lydia Davis

Value of Originality in Young Writers

When asked about what she looks for in a young writer, Davis emphasizes the importance of originality and a unique perspective.

She values writers who can look at the world with their own eyes and avoid clichéd observations.

She also highlights the importance of a good command of language, grammar, and syntax, as these are difficult to change later.

Chaotic Productivity Habits

Davis describes her productivity habit as chaotic, often working on multiple projects at once and getting distracted easily.

Despite this, she finds that this approach works well for shorter pieces.

She often has multiple unfinished stories that she returns to when she feels inspired.

Ambition and Future Projects

Davis doesn’t consider herself ambitious in the worldly sense.

She doesn’t feel pressured to publish books regularly to stay relevant.

Instead, her ambition lies in pursuing what she’s interested in doing next.

She is currently working on publishing her diaries, which contain general observations and interesting things from her reading.

Opinions on Harry Potter Novels

Davis shares her opinion on the Harry Potter novels, stating that she didn’t enjoy the style of writing or the characters.

However, she acknowledges the importance of the series in getting children interested in reading.

She contrasts this with her experience reading the Philip Pullman trilogy, which she found to be wonderfully written.

Appreciation for Classical Music

Davis has a deep appreciation for classical music, particularly Bach and Schubert’s songs.

She tried to explore other genres like pop, folk, and rock and roll, but always found herself returning to classical music.

She believes that her high school’s music program, which was heavily oriented towards Bach, played a significant role in shaping her musical preferences.

Just as a certain spark, a certain way of being able to look with his or her own eyes at the world and see it the way he or she sees it without sort of… what discourages me completely of course is the clichéd observations. – Lydia Davis

Reading Habits

Davis admits that she doesn’t finish most of the books she reads, which she finds annoying.

She believes that she usually understands what the writer is doing within the first 30 pages and doesn’t feel the need to read every word.

However, she is trying to develop the ability to skim books that she should take seriously.

Thoughts on Fragmentary Literary Works

Davis discusses the concept of intentionally fragmentary or incomplete literary works.

She believes that such works can be successful, citing her own novel, ‘The End of the Story,’ as an example.

The novel was designed to give the impression of fragmentation, as the narrator tries to recall past incidents.

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