I Don’t Read Aloud: An Excerpted Interview with Lydia Davis

By Kukuwa Ashun and Edyn Getz

Purchase College welcomed MacArthur Fellowship Award winner Lydia Davis to campus on Thursday, September 24th. Before hosting a public reading and campus wide Q&A, Professor Okasi’s Editing & Production class had the opportunity to sit down and interview the author. She answered questions about the intimate literary world, her writing process, and the roles that sounds play in her own work. In the excerpt below, Lydia explores the relationship between sound, fiction, and the editing process.

LydiaDavis

Davis: I hear everything in my head. I don’t read aloud.

Italics Mine: Yeah! Reading your stories, we’ve noticed that there is a distinct cadence behind your work. Can you describe how this contributes to the editing process?

Davis: My stories are very much based on sound as well as meaning. When I read anything, I hear it in my head. I once asked a class if they all did that. Did they all hear it in their head? Did they not? One woman mentioned that she really didn’t hear [stories] in her head at all. I sort of accepted that, but then I later thought: what’s the point of all the work we do with sound, as writers? When the reader reads it, if they don’t want to hear the stories, or they just don’t hear them at all, they’re just reading to extract a sense from them. What about all the play of sounds? What happens to that? That’s a really interesting problem.

Italics Mine: I wonder how that affects editing. In regards to your work, when do you feel like you have a finished piece?

Davis: Well, the first draft I write very, very quickly and I don’t really revise as I go along. After that, I go through it again, and again, and again. I guess the process is always reading it from the beginning to the end and saying, “Is there anything?” Maybe before that I have a general sense. You come away from something you’ve written and you have almost a physical sense of it, rather than an intellectual or mental sense of it. It’s really strong here and it’s weak there, or it’s too strong here, too colorful here, or very pale here. There is a physical sense that it needs work or it doesn’t.

Check out the rest of the interview in December’s issue of Italics Mine!

 

 

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