Hamish Hamilton, $45 hb, 521 pp
Essays One is the first of two volumes of collected non-fiction drawn from all periods of Lydia Davis’s long career. While the second collection will, according to the author, ‘concentrate more single-mindedly on translation and the experience of reading foreign languages’, this volume has an alternating focus on writing and reading practices, translation, commentary, reviews, and personal essays. It is loosely structured, non-chronological, and doesn’t shy away from repetition or reiteration – particularly throughout the several pieces that share the subtitle ‘Forms and Influences’.
The collection of these essays into a single volume serves readerly convenience more than a desire for purposeful proximity. It makes it easier to read Davis’s non-fiction side by side, to identify any shifts in thought or sensibility, and to locate those repetitions. A few pieces appear to be without obvious purpose – except, perhaps, for what they reveal about Davis’s interests – but most are more than worthy of republication.