Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis

Advice to the Young

“Be patient – even with chaos.” Let American author, Lydia Davis, guide you through the insecurities and literary wilderness that upcoming writers often face.

As a writer, Lydia Davis finds it important to never cave in to the pressure of publishers or agents: “Do what you want to do, and don’t worry if it's a little odd or doesn’t fit the market.”

Writing isn’t neat – quite the contrary – and it’s necessary to put effort into making the text flow: “You learn from models, you study them, you analyse them very closely. What kind of adjectives, how many, what kind of nouns, how long are the sentences, what’s the rhythm? You pick it apart.”

Lydia Davis (b. 1947) is considered “the master of form largely of her own invention.” She has written several collections of short stories, e.g. ‘Break It Down’ (1986), ‘Varieties of Disturbance’ (2007) and ‘Can’t and Won’t’ (2014). When Davis received the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, the chairman of the judges said that “her writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind. Just how to categorize them? They have been called stories but could equally be miniatures, anecdotes, essays, jokes, parables, fables, texts, aphorisms or even apophthegms, prayers or simply observations.” Davis is also an acclaimed translator of French writers such as Proust, Gustave Flaubert and Maurice Blanchot.

American novelist Jonathan Franzen has characterized Lydia Davis thus: “She is the shorter Proust among us. She has the sensitivity to track the stuff that is so evanescent it flies right by the rest of us. But as it does so, it leaves enough of a trace that when you read her you do it with a sense of recognition.”

Lydia Davis was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Literature festival at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2014.

Camera: Klaus Elmer & Nikolaj Jungersen
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Laurie Anderson

    Letter Exchange with JFK

    “Dear Senator Kennedy. I really admire the way you’re running your campaign. I’m running for president of my student council, can you send me some tips?” Find out what the soon-to-be president John F. Kennedy replied to a young Laurie Anderson’s letter.

  • Rachel Kushner

    The Final Sentence

    “I know the sensibility of what the final line is going to do – for me and for the reader.” Watch American novelist Rachel Kushner discuss the impact of the final line, and how she dislikes endings that “produce a sensation of an ellipsis.”

  • Colm Tóibín

    The Sentence Starting a Book

    In this short video, Colm Tóibín – known for acclaimed novels such as ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘The Master’ – discusses the important function of a novel’s first sentence as a catalyst for the rest of the book.

  • Doug Aitken

    The Nomadic Studio

    In this interview featuring extracts from Doug Aitken’s visually stunning videos, the American multimedia artist offers insight into his captivating work and how he learns from “watching things become a car crash in slow motion.”

  • Richard Ford

    Art is Heavy Lifting

    Watch Richard Ford on escaping the ‘southern writer’ label and how writing a novel is satisfyingly hard work: “Why should it be simple? Why shouldn’t it be a clerical nightmare? Why shouldn’t it take four years? That’s what I want it to be – a masterpiece.”

  • Joshua Oppenheimer

    Advice to the Young

    “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you how it should be done.” The commended American director Joshua Oppenheimer – nominated twice for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature – here shares his powerful advice for aspiring filmmakers.

  • Superflex

    Why We Flooded McDonald’s

    What motivates a Danish artists' group to make a movie where one of the most famous American fast food restaurants is inexplicably flooded? Superflex here comment on the content of their “post-apocalyptic movie” ‘Flooded McDonald’s’.

  • Peter Zumthor

    Different Kinds of Silence

    We visited Peter Zumthor – one of the world’s leading architects – in his studio in Switzerland. In this extensive and rare biographical video interview he tells the captivating story of his childhood, his studies in NYC and his parents’ strong influence.

  • Rachel Kushner

    Putting in the Hours

    “There’s something about habit that’s elemental.” American author Rachel Kushner has no doubt that consistent work on a novel is key. You never know when a moment of inspiration is going to hit – but when it does, you have to be there.

  • Margarethe von Trotta

    A Group of Rebels

    Award-winning film director Margarethe von Trotta – who has worked closely with the legendary directors Fassbinder and Schlöndorff – here shares the story of her winding road to becoming one of the leading contemporary German filmmakers.

  • Anna Bjerger

    It's All About Process

    “The painting moves me forward – and I follow.” Meet Swedish Anna Bjerger, who wants to preserve the excitement of painting, and who paints from photographs, feeling that she can somehow rescue images “that would otherwise disappear.”

  • 3 Artists

    On Yayoi Kusama’s Phalli’s Field

    An absorbing installation of mirrors and soft polka dots by Yayoi Kusama. Join artists Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Astrid Svangren and Alexander Tovborg as they explore what Kusama herself describes as “a sublime, miraculous field of phalluses.”