Guestbook

Below is my guestbook! Please take the time to sign my book and let me know what you think!


NameLim Khai Lun
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CommentsDo not spam my inbox or i will call the admins

Namechubatoshi Longchar
Email
CommentsLocal comment...

Jhakass :-)

Nameyanpo
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CommentsI was fun,annoying bla bla!

Nameyanpo
Email
CommentsI was fun,annoying bla bla!

Namesofia
Email
Commentsi like turtles

Nameiosdfjsdfgjklgnsf
Email
Commentsfgsdhgjwnhsrgerygkhuileyhihnjjotu8erhik.t

NameDaisy
EmailDaisyspreadbury-key.com
Comments

Namemohd yazid
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Comments

NameNancy
Email
CommentsHelloooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Namejames stewart
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Comments

Namejames stewart
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Comments

NameSusannah
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CommentsHi

NameShemir Lobbins
Email
CommentsVienna, WV

NameVijay
Email2e1.vijaygmail.com
Comments

Nameyouroneandonly
Email
Commentsso funny

NameTom Webb
Email
CommentsThis was aggravating but awesome!!

Nameghkmtoljtr;e't
Emaildruftgiyhouijpok
Commentsomg suck

NameMe
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Comments

NameMe
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Comments

NameGabby
Email
CommentsHeyy😂👏

NameNoerz
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CommentsThis is a fucking waste of my time who ever made this should die! I thought it was a pita restaurant. Like pita pit

NameKarina
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Comments

NameAshlyn :)
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Namemovieboy
Email
CommentsHow do you make one of these websites. I want to send them to my friends.

NameLola Pmeijer
Email
CommentsLola

NameLola Pmeijer
Email
CommentsLola

NameLola
EmailPetermeijer
CommentsLola

NameFranky
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CommentsEVIL

NameMarcus
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CommentsTry this

NameErin
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CommentsReallly

NameBrittany
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Comments

Namealyssa
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Commentsnice ashlee

NameSassycraftsdiy
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CommentsBwahaha loved it!!!

Nameraazkhan
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Comments

Nameawhina
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CommentsThug life

NameAlexandra Karlsson
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CommentsFunny

NameEvil Pussy
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Commentsu wot m8

Namearitrika
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Commentsawesome

NameUdita Roy Choudhury
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Comments

NameUdita Roy Choudhury
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Comments

Namemike
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Commentsu sack

Namemike
Email
Commentsu sack

Namemike
Email
Commentsu sack

NameAlfieShowzaYT
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CommentsI just pressed the'block this page from opening any more dialogs'button on Chrome.

NameAlfieShowzaYT
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Comments

NameAlyssa roze st ran
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Comments

NameMaggie
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CommentsI thought we were going to a million

NameMaggie
Email
CommentsI thought we were going to a million

NameMaggie
Email
CommentsI thought we were going to a million

Nameallie
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CommentsI love this😂😂I put it on my instagram page

NameAlex Kevin Lucero
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Comments

NameHannah Ives
Email
CommentsI.LOVE.THIS!!

NameSam Weber
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CommentsHaha beat it u poop

Namenight
Email
CommentsUrticaria UFOs. Disc disc rival ridge ridge Osceola

Nameleon
Email
CommentsWtf

Namecorinne
Email
CommentsLol. Curiosity killed the cat 😄

Namef-dawg
Email
Commentswoaw.

NameDumb
EmailDumb
CommentsDumb

NameDumb
EmailDumb
CommentsDumb

NameDumb
EmailDumb
Comments

NameJessie
Email
CommentsHaha this was great

Namesara tuchez
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Comments

NameAdriana Bogue
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Comments

Nameemily
Email
CommentsI was trying to get a concert ticket and now its sold out

NameGibson
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CommentsThis is the stupidest thing I've ever seen

Namechsrinu
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CommentsI am interested to guest book

Namebryan
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CommentsDoesnt work with android

Namegauarav
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Comments

NameOR 1=1
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Commentsa

NameOR 1=1
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Comments

NameShantal 💘
Email
CommentsIt actually wasn't that bad 😂👌

Namem coco
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Comments

Namefarkhanda
Email
Comments😜😝😁😁😁😁😂😊

NameConner McDavid
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CommentsLets go Buffalo!! WHOOOOO SABRES!!

NameSydni
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Comments

NameJack
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Comments

NameSkree
Email
Commentsbutts

NameZyan Dominique
Email
Comments😜😏👋 Heeyyy

NameDestiny
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CommentsWow really

NameLolai
EmailWas here
Comments

Namea
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CommentsHai

Namethompson
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Comments

Namemorrison mwangi
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Comments

Namemorrison mwangi
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Comments

NameKatelyn
Email
Commentswhat's up!!!@-&$£€£!.?&





bush did 911

NameKaren
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Comments

Namehollyberrypie
Email
Comments^-^ Hint:just click prevent this website from creating additional text boxes! Works on Samsung devices!:3

NameRoger
Email
CommentsHow did you make that suffering this YHAT you press OK on? It's cool

Namemelanie
Email
Comments

Namekimmy
Email@k.singer_
CommentsWhat is this

NameEllie
Email
CommentsRage!!!!

NameLexi Rosa
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Commentssigh

NameBeth💕
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CommentsThis was wonderfully annoying to me

NameLexi Rosa
Email
Commentssigh

NameLexi Rosa
Email
Commentssigh

Namepriyanka
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Comments

NameEmeldah
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NameFuck you
Email
CommentsFUCKING shit waste of time. Fuckkkk

NameJustin
Email
CommentsHahaha

NamePraful Nigam
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Comments

Namesuper_rhino3
Email
CommentsOn android you can just click don't show and skip it 😝

Namenarwhal
Emailnnonononono
CommentsI SPENT MY LIFE DOING THIS. NOW I AM DEAD. LETS DO MORE FUN EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES...

FOREVER!!!!

Wouldn't that be F-U-N?!

YEs1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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OH NO!!!!!!

WE FORGOT DERF!!!!!

We'll have to start again >:)

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derf
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derfteen
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ninetyderf
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Wow...

I can't believe your still reading...

WE MUST BE HAVING SO MUCH FUN TOGETHER!!!!!

Let's exchange TRIVIA FACTS!!!!

Did you know the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are named after famous artists?

As an educational activity, we will sing their theme song :)

Sing along as loudly as you can!!!!!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Heroes in a half-shell

Turtle power!

They're the world's most fearsome fighting team (We're really hip!)

They're heroes in a half-shell and they're green (Hey - get a grip!)

When the evil Shredder attacks

These Turtle boys don't cut him no slack!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Splinter taught them to be ninja teens (He's a radical rat!)

Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines (That's a fact, Jack!)

Raphael is cool but crude (Gimme a break!)

Michaelangelo is a party dude (Party!)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Heroes in a half shell

Turtle power!

Well, I love that show.






Hmm, I think I'll let you off now...







IF WE WERENT HAVING SO MUCH FUN TOGETHER!!!






Let's do all the activities we JUST did AGAIN!!!!

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derfteen
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Again, sing along as loudly as you can!!!!!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Heroes in a half-shell

Turtle power!

They're the world's most fearsome fighting team (We're really hip!)

They're heroes in a half-shell and they're green (Hey - get a grip!)

When the evil Shredder attacks

These Turtle boys don't cut him no slack!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Splinter taught them to be ninja teens (He's a radical rat!)

Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines (That's a fact, Jack!)

Raphael is cool but crude (Gimme a break!)

Michaelangelo is a party dude (Party!)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Heroes in a half shell

Turtle power!

Hmm...

now what?

...

:(

I'm clueless,

...

You know what,

I'm kicking you off for manking me clueless!!! >:(

Go!

Now!

Scram!!

BYEBYE!

Are you going?

Ugh,

Pleaseee

BYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBEYBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYEBYE

Are you even listening?

I'm leaving.
*walks out door*







*comes back* I said BYE, why arent you gone?!







*jumps out window* OWWWW!!

NameAnnette Wales
Email
Comments

NameWalker
EmailWalker hames.com
Comments

NameKingdom Proclaimer
Email
Comments.

GOOD NEWS

In 2018 death aging and diseases will come to its end. No more crimes to be afraid of because all doer of iniquities will be rendered lifeless by God. Everything will be free. free foods, water, shelter, clothes, electricity, tv, cellphones, laptops, etc. There will be so much excitement in never ending exploration of our planet and the universe, and of course everyone stays healthy and young even when they are in their 100's or 1000's.

Would you like to benefit in this extremely good Life? Yes of course! If so, then, like travelling to other countries that require Visa, the same here. There are requirements to comply with and its very easy. You just have to believe in Christ, to live upright, and to just help for free give for free instead of buying selling or bartering. thats it

http://2018.witnesstoday.org

.

NameArianna
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Comments

NameVeronica
Email
CommentsOMIGOD WAHT TE HECK

NameHi
EmailHi
CommentsHi

Namenina
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Comments

Namejimmy gren
Email
CommentsNdfoaisdojaisd I hate you

Nameharsh
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Comments

Nameharsh
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Namecolleen
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Comments

Namehugo mwandwe
Email
CommentsAwesome

NameAryan
Email
CommentsAwesome

Namenancy bittok
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Comments

NameTim
Email
CommentsYeah. Yeah. I enjoyed this. 10/10

Namef off
Emaili gjdk
Commentsfooo

NameRylee
Email
Comments

NameAlly
Email
Commentsit is really annoying (the spamming) but its great to trick your friends with

NameAlly
Email
Commentsit is really annoying (the spamming) but its great to trick your friends with

NameZara
Email
Comments

NameMadeline England
EmailCaligil518518
CommentsBest website ever!

NameEmory
Email
Comments

Namebrenda
Email
Comments

Namesarah
Email
Comments

NameCody
EmailMyers
CommentsFUCK YOU

NameKatherine
Email
CommentsHow did you make this?

NameHappykat
Email
CommentsOh. My. God. XDDDDD

Nameaddan
Email
Comments

NameKing fifi
Email
CommentsWow just wow

Nameband.iz.bae
Emailfollow me on Ig!!! ;)
CommentsI hate this so much but I must have it recorded.

Follow me
On ig ;)

NameEva
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Comments

NameEva
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Comments

NameCarl
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Comments

NameRuphyn veen
Email
CommentsWhat a joke! ¡NKT

NameJaden
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Comments

NameJaden
Email
Comments

NameZoey
Email
CommentsHeyyyy

NameEmy Marwa
Email
Comments

NameAna
Email
CommentsStupid kid!

NameJoseph armenta
Email
Comments

Nameurvashi
Email
Comments

NameMicheal Jackson
Email
CommentsBlanket

NameViki deng
Email
CommentsI hate Sam comini

NameJordan Payne
Email
CommentsOMG!! THIS WAS ACTUALLY HELL THANKS TO MY NONE FRIEND ANYMORE, AIESHA!

NamePaul myrthong
Email
Comments

NameLauren Graden
Email
Comments

NameSydney
Email
CommentsI thought that would never END!!!

NamePaityn ✌️
EmailDontuse1
CommentsI took so long i forgot who to blame 😒

Nameakaia
Email
Comments

Namecassidy
Email
Comments

NamePaul myrthong
Email
Comments

NameLisa
Email
Comments

NameMarissa Clayton
Email
CommentsMarissa Clayton 😘

NameSamantha P
Email
CommentsThis website is weird but very funny... I'm totally showing this hilarious website to people... 😄😂

NameSamantha P
Email
CommentsThis website is weird but very funny... I'm totally showing this hilarious website to people... 😄😂

NameSamantha P
Email
CommentsThis website is weird but very funny... I'm totally showing this hilarious website to people... 😄😂

NameJimmy Clyne
Email46028
CommentsTotally worth it

NameSharmice Hiroshi
Email
CommentsI love Chinese food

Nameggjjggjj
Email
CommentsFail my android let me skip counting to 100 and doing the alphabet. Epic fail. Mua ha ha ha haaaaaa.

NameKasia
Email
CommentsLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalalaFuckyoupeopleLalalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalallalallalala

NameJonah Breed
Email
Comments<3

NameAj
Email
Comments????

NameRatchetL
Email
CommentsI like turtles!!



















And i like you





Jk



I hate you



Not really



You are sexy



Well im just gonna go now bye

NameRatchetL
Email
CommentsI like turtles!!



















And i like you





Jk



I hate you



Not really



You are sexy



Well im just gonna go now bye

NameRatchetL
Email
CommentsI like turtles!!



















And i like you





Jk



I hate you



Not really



You are sexy



Well im just gonna go now bye

NameAugust
Email
CommentsFunny thing to put on your site

NameViktor
Email
Comments

NameGaby lanning
Email
CommentsAwesome!!!

Namehaha
Email
Commentscunt

NameAlyssa Moore
Email
CommentsWow this is the best thing to ever exist! I sent it to all my friends

NameNathan
Email
CommentsWat.

NameKate G
Email
Comments

NameKate G
Email
Comments

NameJessie
Email
CommentsLOVED THIS

NameJessie
Email
CommentsLOVED THIS

Namealvin theodore
Email
Comments

NameJesse okumu
Email
CommentsI love it

Name<3
Email
CommentsHallo🙊

Name<3
Email
Comments

Namelucy jairus
Email
Comments

Namelucy jairus
Email
Comments

Namejayalakshmi
Email
Comments

Namefuckugrant
Emailfuckugrant
CommentsFuckugrant

NameFraser
EmailGet fucked
CommentsGrant you can get fucked I'm not doing this again

NamePunniya
Email
Comments

NameFestus Kibet
Email
CommentsCharity

NameKUK
Email
CommentsI love to **** becouse that feel so good!!!
And call me, my fån numbär is 112

Please call me i have large condoms!!!

Namevikram
Email
Comments

Namesherry......thabossetbabe
Email
Comments

NameJeff
EmailLuigi
CommentsI'm here

NameEdwin Clinton Ondong'a
Email
CommentsOk

NameCay
Email
Comments

NameDiane Joy
Email
CommentsNice

NameDiane Joy
Email
CommentsNice

NameAlyssa Harris
Email
Comments

NameAlyssa Harris
Email
Comments

NameAngry
Email
CommentsMe angry :(

NameKeri
Email
CommentsWhat is this

Nameskylar
Email
Comments

Namekayla
Email
Commentsvery noice

NameItalya Crenshaw aka @qhakezone on insta
Email
Commentswhat in the world is this lmao ily

NameFrancis Bonnefoy
Email
CommentsBest. Thing. Ever. I was scared you wouldn't let me go XD

NameMary
Email
CommentsWOWh

NameKarsen Hettinger
Email
CommentsThis is some quality shit.

NameKarsen Hettinger
Email
CommentsThis is some quality shit.

NameKarsen Hettinger
Email
CommentsThis is some quality shit.

NameJosh
Email
Comments

Namelol
Emaillol
Comments

NameCarleigh johns
Email
CommentsHaha you thought it would never end

NameCarleigh johns
Email
CommentsHaha you

NameCaillyn
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Comments

Namechrispapa
Email
Comments

Namebironga
Email
Commentsam floatn..@kiago

NameAnastasia
Email
CommentsIt was fun! 😊😊

NameIulia
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CommentsAwesome.... and funny, amusing, yah...:/

NameBelle
Email
CommentsWhy would anyone make this

Nameboo
Emailellie_louisee_xx
CommentsShit

Namekk
Email
Commentsyou just wasted my precious time of internet, shame on you ....

Namekenneth
Email
Commentslol, put this on my website, showed all my friends!

NameGomathy
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Comments

Namek.madhuha chowdaru
Email
Comments

NameJack owen
Email
CommentskuwefKLEWFEWf

NameJack Gueno
Email
Commentsi love you

Name2KAIR
Email
CommentsefbweufblJWE,F

Name2KAIR
Email
CommentsefbweufblJWE,F

NameAngel
Email
Comments😂😂😂

NameAngel
Email
Comments😂😂😂

Nameayesha
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Comments

NameMadawesomeness
Email
CommentsI fu ally made it lol

NameJosh
Email
CommentsFml

NameEvil
Email
CommentsHi

NameCameron
Email
CommentsHaha

NameJacob
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CommentsFuck yall

NameKiki
Email
CommentsThis was so fun

NamePhil
Email
CommentsWtf

NameJessica
Email
Comments<3333333

NameKara Shacklette
Email
Comments

NameKayla "KKBrads" Bradley
Email
CommentsI have too much free time

NameMIKEY MAC
Email
CommentsBeast

NameAmanda 😈
Email
Commentsyou suck lol

NameKristen
Email
CommentsLMAO It took me like, 20 minutes to get thru this 😂

NameKristen
Email
CommentsLMAO It took me like, 20 minutes to get thru this 😂

NameAimee
Email
CommentsWow. Great job... You KILLED MY PATIENCE! ITS GONE. FOREVER.

NameAlaina chastain
Email
CommentsLove that link better ever👏

NameFinn the human
Email
CommentsF$%& you

NameJonathan Do
Email
CommentsLol, pranking alot of people

NameEbba
EmailGreek Lagerkvist
Comments

Namedildos galore
Email
CommentsLeleleleellelelelelelelelelelelelelelelelekelrlelelelelelel

NameJabalitu
Email
CommentsLOL! This is fricked up. LOL

NameYouness m
Email
CommentsThis is fun

NameHampus
Email
CommentsLol

NameWill
Email
CommentsGo fuck yourself

NameRayph
Email
Comments

Namechamika
Email
Comments

Namesandra
Email
Commentssux

NameSander
Email
CommentsHello "I will make you suffer. Don't write that. it's not fun

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NameJosh Stringer
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Emailpikabat
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CommentsThis is awesome.

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SO KAWAII

Namelol
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Emailgayana04Gmail.com
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NameSir Smith
Email
CommentsHello I am Sir Victor smith I am one of the agents sent by the high priest to bring as many of those who are interested in becoming a member of the Illuminati to the great Illuminati temple,am a business man I own companies all over the world but I was once like you I could not even feed my family what kind of life was that to live I lived in poverty until I saw an opportunity to be a member of the great Illuminati Family and I took my chances and I have been a member for close to seven years now.Illuminati makes your business/ careers grow these and many more other benefits so if you are interested write me via my mail victorsmith101@yahoo.com

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EmailSomeone@gmail
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EmailLMAO@GMAIL>COM
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NameJohn smith
Email
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NameElizabeth
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NameGideon Johnston
Email
CommentsThis was super fun. Hours of nonstop laughing

Nameauryyyy
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NameRaven
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NameMr.Potato
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NameMr.Potato
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Namederp
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Nameneha
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NameCharlotte
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Name.??
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Name.??
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Emailbdjzksk
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NameNicole
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CommentsThis was weird lol FMOIG: _t.r.a._ 😈😇😂

NameTaniyah
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CommentsThis was weird lol FMOIG: _t.r.a._ 😈😇😂

NameTaniyah
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Namesaffron
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Comments

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NameGracie Howard
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NameGlen johnson
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NameSofia
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NameBill
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NameNic
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NamePatrick
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NameMick
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Emailyomama
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Namebritzuriel_17
Email
Comments

Name123456778910
Emailqwertyuiop
Commentsasdfghjklzxcvbnm

NameMelissa
Email
CommentsThat is so cool/annoying

NameJp
Emailemail
CommentsNo comments

Namejp
Email
CommentsUiigffki duuefj fjdgkjsvf rikfswt

Nameas
Email
CommentsHAHAHHAHAAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAQHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAASHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA]

Nameomg
Email
Comments

NameBob
EmailNope
CommentsAnnoying

NameUR GAY
Email
CommentsGAY

NameRyan
Email
CommentsHi

NamePoopyyyy
Email
CommentsHi i like fifa

NameFAWZIHAMEED
Email
CommentsCan I get my players please

NameHarrison Sites
Email
CommentsNice

NameNickvduin
EmailSam.boss
CommentsI hate this but where my player

Namefifa15.madden15
Email
CommentsNot many

NameChristian Patterson
Email
CommentsI'm very motivated

NameNickvduin35
EmailInsta^^
CommentsI hate tht

NameEli Cruz
Email
CommentsHahaha that was funny

NameThomas W
Email
CommentsUr mom heehehehe


NameThomas W
Email
CommentsUr mom heehehehe


NameKaitlyn
EmailAmbrose
CommentsHey

NameRon Paul
Email
CommentsFollow @libertarianmanifesto on Instagram!

NameChloe
Email@chloe
CommentsI hate this

NameLaurel
Email
CommentsI loved this so much..

NameMr. O
Email
Comments

Nameskye
Email
Comments

NameNaomi
Emailfuck no dot com
CommentsThis was hella annoying but I chose to suffer why you are so cruel please stop this #stopfranklypitas2k15

NameNaomi
Emailfuck no dot com
CommentsThis was hella annoying but I chose to suffer why you are so cruel please stop this #stopfranklypitas2k15

NameJoe
Email
Comments😂😂it's hilarious

Namesam
Emailsmith
Comments**i know I'm not the only one**🎤🎶😪

NameJack lajoie
Email
CommentsThat wasn't hard at all

NameLala
Email
CommentsVery funny and got on my nevers

NameFate
Email
CommentsU r evil af

NameVICTORIA
Email
Comments

NameJade
Email
CommentsI hate you

NameJade
Email
CommentsI hate you

NameJade
Email
CommentsI hate you

Nameasd
Emailasd
Comments

NameHardy
Email
CommentsLMFAO that was so cool!

Namemynameisjeff
Email
Commentsmi unicorn run away :(

Namemynameisjeff
Email
Commentsmi unicorn run away :(

Namemynameisjeff
Email
Commentsmi unicorn run away :(

Namelolz_haxz
Email
CommentsIs it bad that this page gave me an erection????

NameKatniss Everdeen
Email
CommentsI was in the arena and I accidentally opened this on my iPhone and so I shut off my iPhone because there's a strict no phone rule, but I knew how to defeat President Snow so I busted out and hacked onto his phone and opened this and he can't survive without his phone I mean who can?! So ya tysm

NameSusen
Email
CommentsYou are an asshole! Go mess with someone else!

Nameashley pickus
Email
Commentsyayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Nameolivia
Email
CommentsSmart bruh. Smart

Namemuhammad shakimie
Email
CommentsPliz

Namemuhammad shakimie
Email
CommentsPliz

NameJeff
Email
CommentsU pooped

NameFernando Ereneta Jr.
Email
CommentsI thought there wouldnt be an end and i was so intruigued

Namecallum scorey
Email
Commentswhat

NameSuvam sinha
Email
CommentsJust awesome. So annoyed but enjoyed.

NameCallum John scorey
Email
CommentsVery funny

NameCallum John scorey
Email
CommentsI'm so annoyed

NameRiCK
Email
Comments

NameKaylene
Email
CommentsLol even when I hit my back arrow it goes forward. :( but I still love it.

Namepooja
Email
Comments

NameChristy
Email
Commentshahah I just had to keep clicking to see where is would go. That was absolutely fabulous!

Nameleanne Rose.
Email
CommentsIve done this thousands of times

NameKorbin
EmailSkrthe702@gmail,com
CommentsWorth it

NameAriana
Email
CommentsThat was so hard why did you have do this that was so mean and dumb how do you have friends?

Namelolz_haxz
Email
CommentsIs it bad that this page gave me an erection???😞

Nameshayna rutman
Email
CommentsI hated this😂😂

Namemainss
EmailYou don't know me@nope
CommentsGWT TROLLED SON
TROLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Name🎊🎊David🎊🎊
Email
CommentsI thought you screwed up my Safari😂

NameResham Das
Email
CommentsWhat the hellish is this prank? >_<

Not funny yet.

NameJasmin
Email
CommentsWhAt is the reason for this

NameBriana
Email
CommentsI think it was so annoying at first. And when it said we would go to a million I was like there is no way it would make me do that😂 so I kept going. Then when I was done I left and then later that day(today) I tried to look something up for homework( which we all love) and it started AGAIN!😩😂

NameHalia
Email
CommentsIt was freaky at first but then I went psychology on it and it finally stopped... So funny

NameOpDIMEBAG LIVES!
EmailFOR DIMEBAG
Comments

NameSteven Karpov
Email
Comments

NameBob
EmailBobert
CommentsI'm bob

Namesamuel
Email
CommentsDét var kult

Namemy name is jeff
Email9+10=21@noneofurbusiness
Comments

Namefjfheawjfb
Emailnon of ure buisness
Comments5 minuites of my life wasted

NameOlivia
Email
CommentsYou're a fucking idiot

NameCarmela
Email
CommentsLol

Namebiswabrata dutta
Email
Comments

Namebiswabrata dutta
Email
Comments

Nameveronica snow
Email
Commentswow that was really fun halarious please make more!!!!!!!!! and please email me more!!

Namefarooqui
EmailAkramfarooqui.axisbank@Gmail
CommentsHi need details

Nameabcd
Emailgeft
Commentsa circle is a circle

NameMadsin
EmailHispaldj.com
Comments1/5 stars.

NameKARA KIM
Email
Comments

Namevagina
Email
CommentsMy pussy is squirting everywhere.

NameU know me
EmailLol
CommentsThis was boring.

NameKylie
EmailL
Comments

NameAngely
Email
CommentsWtf !! Llamas

NameOlivia
EmailOltorsleff at gmail dot com
Comments

NameOlivia
Email
Comments

NameLee
Email
Comments

NameKanye west
EmailWhat's a email
CommentsI like frogs cause I'm black 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸

NameKanye west
EmailWhat's a email
CommentsI like frogs cause I'm black 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸

NameKyla
Email
Comments

NameKate Szep
Email
CommentsI got board😂😂😂

NameShaelyn
EmailNotmyrealemail.com
CommentsThat was crAzy

NameKaedyn and Liv
Email
CommentsWe made it!!!!!

NameYour'eAHoeJason
Email
CommentsJason thanks for being an ass and making me go through this whole fucking dumb bullshit bitch ass fucktard quiz. I don't appreciate it, burn in a whole.

NameElla
Email
CommentsI don't understand why so many people hate this! I thought it was entertaining, PLUS, if I wanted to leave, Google Chrome gave an option to NOT make anymore pop-ups, but I was curious so I kept going. (: Stop complaining, at least it's over now.

NameElla
Email
CommentsI don't understand why so many people hate this! I thought it was entertaining, PLUS, if I wanted to leave, Google Chrome gave an option to NOT make anymore pop-ups, but I was curious so I kept going. (: Stop complaining, at least it's over now.

Namealyssa
Email
Commentsthat was really retarded and wierd it was not even scary at all was u bored when u did that becouse it seamed like u were really really bored

NameKatie
Email
CommentsI absolutely hate this

NameWilliam
Email
Comments😂😂

NameMsreptar
Email
CommentsJesus...

NameFabi
Email
CommentsI wanna choke on the dick of whoever made this

NameA person
Email
CommentsYou are an evil and cruel person

NameAlexa
Email
Comments

NameMacy
Email
Comments

Namehugh janus
Emailsounditoutlol@biga,nus
Commentswhy......

NameSoccer is life⚽️⚽️⚽️
EmailSoccer
CommentsSick lol 😂😂

NameSoccer is life⚽️⚽️⚽️
EmailSoccer
CommentsSick lol 😂😂

Namehugh janus
Email
Commentswhy.....

Namehugh janus
Email
Commentswhy.....

NameMaximiliam molin
Email
CommentsHar du Inge mer

NameLauren
Email
CommentsThat was stupid

NameSean Kaye
Email
CommentsUn

NameSam
Email
Comments

NameAlyssa
EmailNot nono
CommentsThat was funny!'

NameAlyssa
EmailNot nono
Comments

NameLego builder official
EmailMy Instagram! Lego_Builder_Official
Comments

NameAnnoyed
Email
CommentsReally

NameMarlee Gunnell
Email
Commentsbruh.

NameWET WIPE
Email
Comments

NameKirat
Email
CommentsYour site is hella irritating but it's funny

NameRobbie V
Email
CommentsI made it

NameKellen
Email
CommentsI feel out of breath after reading that

Namejdhsjsgd
Emailbdbsjshd
CommentsDbshdjd

NamePaige
Email
CommentsArrerrrrrrr

NameRhyan
Email
CommentsI was scared

NameAshlynn
EmailKawaii_hipst34
Comments

NameJake
Email
CommentsLike it

Namemayo
Emailvargas
Commentsyou are a monster, frankly pitas. is frankly your first name or are you trying to be ironic?

NameHalie Williams
Email
CommentsI'm good at cheer

NameHalie Williams
Email
CommentsI'm good at cheer

NameChad
Email
CommentsBest experience of my life

NameTori
Email
Comments

NameHailey
Email
CommentsThat was so fun!!!! I love doing it over and over again!!!!

NameRob
Emailsuckmydick.com
Comments🆒

Namebob
Emailbob
CommentsThat was... interesting.

NameHolly
Email
Comments🐠🐟📦

Namemax
Email
Comments

NameMadison
Email
CommentsWow I was about to die it really annoys my fingers xD this was pretty cool though

Namekrishanth
Email
CommentsLife is gud

Namekrishanth
Email
Comments

Nameyusme
Emailmklingyb
Comments

Nameaabiha
Email
Comments

NameAnya
Email
CommentsThat was horrible and i now have waisted like and hour doing this im extremely bored okay that was bad im gonna go die in a well now so bye bye

NamePaloma
Email
CommentsI HATE THIS

Nameoscar
Email
Commentssup legend

NameKassie
Email
CommentsThis made my night a lot better

Namedenvir
Email
Commentsyou fucking suck

Namedenvir
Email
Commentsyou fucking suck

NamePrawin
Email
CommentsWow 😲 it was nice and it s damn fucking too.....

NameCaroline
Emailcarolinepynes2003
Comments

NameIzzy
Email
Comments

NameIzzy
Email
Comments

NameIzzy
Email
Comments

NameManny
Email
CommentsThis was entertaining

Nametommy
Email
Comments

NameJacob Lawyer
Email
CommentsI think I was just closer to death then I have ever been before

NameTurtle
Email
CommentsFunny, but so annoying!!!!!!

NameKailyn
Email
CommentsFuck this😂😂😂

Namejoe
Email
Commentslol

NameTrinity
Email
CommentsLol this thing is so crazy

NameAdolf Hitler
EmailNazi.net
CommentsI cummin for you Jews 💂💥

NameAdolf Hitler
EmailNazi.net
CommentsI cummin for you Jews 💂💥

Nameavasfave
Email
Comments

Namelisa
Email
Comments

Namehello world
Email
CommentsHello world

Namehello world
Email
CommentsHello world

Namejonny/ baercub / jrotc
Emailpls bb
Commentsstop pls to ez

Namejonny/ baercub / jrotc
Emailpls bb
Commentsstop pls to ez

Namefking logan
Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

Namefking logan
Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

Namefking logan
Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

Namefking logan
Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

Namefking logan
Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

Namefking logan
Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

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Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

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Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

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Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

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Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

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Emailwadasd
Commentsasdadwdwaddsdawd

NameFern
Email
CommentsAmazing fun

NameSATHISH
Email
Comments

NameSATHISH
Email
Comments

NameD.Mahidhar Reddy
Email
Comments

Nameajay
Email
Comments

NameJamie Young
Email
CommentsVery funny adam. Loved it. Lol

Namesundarf7@gmail.com
Email9600100465
Comments

Namesundarf7@gmail.com
Email9600100465
Comments

Namesheela
Email
Commentshi

NameAmber
Email
CommentsOmg my friend told me to click on the link in his bio and this literally drive me crazy 😂😂😂😂

NameUdaya Kumar
Email
CommentsNo comments

NameSiddhartha sanniti
Email
Comments

NameSreekar
Email
Comments

Namepenis
Email
CommentsEllo evry1 dis websait iz da best shit vevr made

Namepenis
Email
CommentsEllo evry1 dis websait iz da best shit vevr made

Namepenis
Email
CommentsEllo evry1 dis websait iz da best shit vevr made

Namepenis
Email
Comments

NameEric Big Daddy
Email
CommentsHell yeah nigga

NameAjit
Email
Comments

NameChristofer
Email
CommentsClick 👌

Namesai
Email
CommentsJdr is gd stuff to gd yuck hi j gd DG

NameEllie
Email
Comments

NameNichole
Email
CommentsHi there I'm to sexy for you

NameDessi from kik
EmailThe mail
CommentsTrevlig upplevelse. Tack ❤️

NameSamantha
Email
Comments

Nametada
Email
CommentsTada

NameOskat
Email
CommentsNice

NameBrandon
Email
Comments

NameThiagarajan
Email
Commentspongada.... dai....

Namemanimozhi
Email
CommentsNice

Namepayton
Emailsuck my dick dot dick
CommentsOops

NameChristine Harin Cho
Email
Commentspls dont hack into my mail. its my school's thingish thing mail. who are you? ur amazing.

Namemiranda
Emailrandapanda1010@gmail com
CommentsWow. This was fun. NOT! I had to suffer XD

Btw, love your insta

Namevikram mugale
Email
Comments

Namelavanya
Email
Comments

NameHannah
Email
Commentshuh?

NameManav Chhabra
Email
Comments

NameGillian
Email
CommentsMy sister sent me the link 😂 Hoop or die #42 🏀😈

NameBenito Rubio
Email
CommentsThis website isn't harmful when you jitter click OK

NameJeanelle
Email
CommentsSpam spam spam

NameKendrick llama
Emailsirlamos@email
CommentsI'm Kendrick Llama

NameBerlinda
Email
CommentsHahahaha

NameHaleyyyyy
Email
Comments😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

NameThatHawiianKid
Email
CommentsThat was fun

Namemichelle obama
Email
CommentsShoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack you in the air
Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air

Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Clap, clap, clap like you don't care
Smack that, clap, clap, clap like you don't care
(I know you care)

Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap it
Foot up, my foot up
Hold up now my foot up
I'm spinnin' my foot up
Foot up yeah my foot up
I'm spinnin' my foot up
Put my foot down yeah my hands up
My hands up, my hands up
(Flexin')
Flexin' while my hands up
My hands up, my hands up
I stand up with my hands up
Then I put up, my hands up
I put up, my hands up
I put up, my hands up
Then I'm spinnin' all my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
Then I'm tippin' all my hands up
Spinnin', I'm spinnin', I'm spinnin' while my hands up
I'm Spinnin', I'm spinnin', I'm spinnin' while my hands up
(Drank)
Hold that cup like alcohol, hold that cup like alcohol
Hold that cup like alcohol
Don't you drop that alcohol
Never drop that alcohol, never drop that alcohol
I know you thinkin' bout alcohol
I know I'm thinkin' bout that alcohol
Man it feel like rollin' dice, man it feel like rollin' dice
Seven eleven, seven eleven, seven twice, man seven twice
Man it feel like rollin' dice, man this feel like rollin' dice
Man it feel like rollin' dice
Seven twice, seven twice
Girl I'm tryna kick it with you
Girl I'm tryna kick it with you
Man I'm tryna kick it with you
My feet up, I kick it with you
Man I swear I kick it with you
Man I swear I kick it with you
Girl I wanna kick it with you
Man I know I kick it with you
Yeah I spin' around and I kick it with you






Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack you in the air
Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air

Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Clap, clap, clap like you don't care
Smack that, clap, clap, clap like you don't care
(I know you care)

Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Ooh wee be-be freaky deaky
Think me she pink bikini
Rock that groovy dye dashiki
Nefertiti, edges kinky
Sweatin' out my blow out
Sweatin' out my presses
Trick about to go off
Mad cause I'm so fresh
Fresher than you
I'm fresher than you
Fresher than you O

Namemichelle obama
Email
CommentsShoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack you in the air
Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air

Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Clap, clap, clap like you don't care
Smack that, clap, clap, clap like you don't care
(I know you care)

Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap it
Foot up, my foot up
Hold up now my foot up
I'm spinnin' my foot up
Foot up yeah my foot up
I'm spinnin' my foot up
Put my foot down yeah my hands up
My hands up, my hands up
(Flexin')
Flexin' while my hands up
My hands up, my hands up
I stand up with my hands up
Then I put up, my hands up
I put up, my hands up
I put up, my hands up
Then I'm spinnin' all my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
Then I'm tippin' all my hands up
Spinnin', I'm spinnin', I'm spinnin' while my hands up
I'm Spinnin', I'm spinnin', I'm spinnin' while my hands up
(Drank)
Hold that cup like alcohol, hold that cup like alcohol
Hold that cup like alcohol
Don't you drop that alcohol
Never drop that alcohol, never drop that alcohol
I know you thinkin' bout alcohol
I know I'm thinkin' bout that alcohol
Man it feel like rollin' dice, man it feel like rollin' dice
Seven eleven, seven eleven, seven twice, man seven twice
Man it feel like rollin' dice, man this feel like rollin' dice
Man it feel like rollin' dice
Seven twice, seven twice
Girl I'm tryna kick it with you
Girl I'm tryna kick it with you
Man I'm tryna kick it with you
My feet up, I kick it with you
Man I swear I kick it with you
Man I swear I kick it with you
Girl I wanna kick it with you
Man I know I kick it with you
Yeah I spin' around and I kick it with you






Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack you in the air
Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air

Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Clap, clap, clap like you don't care
Smack that, clap, clap, clap like you don't care
(I know you care)

Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Ooh wee be-be freaky deaky
Think me she pink bikini
Rock that groovy dye dashiki
Nefertiti, edges kinky
Sweatin' out my blow out
Sweatin' out my presses
Trick about to go off
Mad cause I'm so fresh
Fresher than you
I'm fresher than you
Fresher than you O

Namemichelle obama
Email
CommentsShoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack you in the air
Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air

Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Clap, clap, clap like you don't care
Smack that, clap, clap, clap like you don't care
(I know you care)

Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap it
Foot up, my foot up
Hold up now my foot up
I'm spinnin' my foot up
Foot up yeah my foot up
I'm spinnin' my foot up
Put my foot down yeah my hands up
My hands up, my hands up
(Flexin')
Flexin' while my hands up
My hands up, my hands up
I stand up with my hands up
Then I put up, my hands up
I put up, my hands up
I put up, my hands up
Then I'm spinnin' all my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
(Spinnin')
Spinnin' while my hands up
Then I'm tippin' all my hands up
Spinnin', I'm spinnin', I'm spinnin' while my hands up
I'm Spinnin', I'm spinnin', I'm spinnin' while my hands up
(Drank)
Hold that cup like alcohol, hold that cup like alcohol
Hold that cup like alcohol
Don't you drop that alcohol
Never drop that alcohol, never drop that alcohol
I know you thinkin' bout alcohol
I know I'm thinkin' bout that alcohol
Man it feel like rollin' dice, man it feel like rollin' dice
Seven eleven, seven eleven, seven twice, man seven twice
Man it feel like rollin' dice, man this feel like rollin' dice
Man it feel like rollin' dice
Seven twice, seven twice
Girl I'm tryna kick it with you
Girl I'm tryna kick it with you
Man I'm tryna kick it with you
My feet up, I kick it with you
Man I swear I kick it with you
Man I swear I kick it with you
Girl I wanna kick it with you
Man I know I kick it with you
Yeah I spin' around and I kick it with you






Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack you in the air
Shoulders sideways, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air
Legs movin' side to side, smack it, smack it in the air
Smack it, smack it in the air

Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Wave your hands side to side, put it in the air
Clap, clap, clap like you don't care
Smack that, clap, clap, clap like you don't care
(I know you care)

Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Wave your hands side to side
Ooh wee be-be freaky deaky
Think me she pink bikini
Rock that groovy dye dashiki
Nefertiti, edges kinky
Sweatin' out my blow out
Sweatin' out my presses
Trick about to go off
Mad cause I'm so fresh
Fresher than you
I'm fresher than you
Fresher than you O

Namesomeone
Email
Commentsyftyviuohygftrtrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Nameamitywars
Email
CommentsThank you for the funness it was so cool. (Follow me on insta: @amitywars)

NameSarah
Email
Commentshow did I have the time to fucking do this

NameGriffin
Email
CommentsWow

NameDolphinizer Mcfisticuffs
Email
CommentsWhat do zombies eat on their steam?

Grave-y

Nameabiii
Email
CommentsThis is a dumb but funny site

Namejessica
Email
Commentshuehuehuehuehue

NameAyanna
Email
CommentsI've done this twice now

NameHaley
Email
CommentsThis. Wasted. Minutes. Of. My. Life. -.-

NameChris
Email
Commentsgr8 b8 m8, r8 8/8.

Nameemily
Email
CommentsThis was fun and confusing. Weird and crazy. Christian made me go on this thing.

Nameemily
Email
CommentsThis was fun and confusing. Weird and crazy. Christian made me go on this thing.

NameNot Matt
Email
CommentsWhy

Namekarthi
Email
Comments

NameDani
Email
CommentsDon't listen to these other comments they r just being assholes honestly I found that button thing quite entertaining :p

NameGayfan
Email
CommentsThis is the gayest website i've ever seen in my entire life. please go fuck yourself in the corner of your nephews room.

Namespuddyotakubutt
Emailwhyyyyyyyyyyy
Commentscool website (except all the popups)

Namespuddyotakubutt
Emailwhyyyyyyyyyyy
Commentscool website (except all the popups)

NameKasey
Email
CommentsThis is a great websit . But it took me fucking forever to get through those things

Name😡
EmailKind of annoying
Comments9+10=21 you stupid no I not

NameGrady brooks
Email
Comments

NamePeighton
Email
CommentsBruh.

Namedani
Email
CommentsI clicked this page 12 times by mistake and I hate myself for it

NameReid Pritchard
Email
CommentsThat's fun! Should be longer.

NameKim Rock
Email
CommentsBrb while I go kms because that was terrible. My thumb is crying

Nametamizh
Email
Comments

NameAnna
Email
CommentsFuck this
Sai sucks balls

Namearlene fernandez
Email
CommentsWtf is this shit

Namearlene fernandez
Emailnotputtingmyrealemail@yaho
Comments

Namenia
Email
Comments

Namek2nia
Email
Comments

Namek2nia
Email
Comments

NameTina
Email
CommentsDid this on my moms iPad got me so fucking scared I deleted all my history. Now when my mom chicks her iPad she gonna think I was watching porn or something.FML

NameJay
Email
CommentsI loved it

Namesummer
Email
Commentswoop woop woop wooop

NameCasey
Email
Comments

NamePolo
EmailNot telling
Comments

Name Kamilė Urtė
Email
Comments
No more Herpes !!! this call for celebration i could remember i cried to Dr Wonder about my herpes virus and he prepared ERP V1 HERBAL HEALING drugs for me this drugs work effectively in my body my body system was renew , on friday i was diagnosed by my doctor and the result came out NEGATIVE Herpes behold it was free !! i can believe Dr Rajesh Wonder of Templeoftestimonies@yahoo.com herpes i cured my promise to visit him for his good works, he also less i forget magical use his powers to reunite my lover back to me ! copy his email address and tell him what you want and you shall surely testify i trust him so much him via email : Templeoftestimonies@yahoo.com this man deserve a monumental award for restoring life back with his various Healing Herbal Drugs and i have heard people testifying that this same man make them a millionaire through KUDIRI SPIRITUAL NATIVE POT. .

NameRocco Sandell
Email
CommentsSICK!! :D

NameBrandi Brooks
EmailAwesome!;)
Comments

Namechaitu.geneva
Email
CommentsYeh

NameBella
EmailHdbdjdnjd
CommentsI don't get this website

NameTay Windmon
Email
CommentsWoww haha

Namesayful
Email
CommentsNice

NameJessica
EmailCournoyer
CommentsHehehhhee

NameHannah
Email
CommentsIt could have been longer

NameDAFUQ?!?!?!
Email
Commentswhat the hell?? what kind of asshole would make a website like this?!?!?

NameRiyazrafi
Email
Comments

NameHahaha Never!
Email
CommentsThat was fun!!! Let's do it again 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 that was even more fun!!! 💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩 Poop stares. Poop likes.

NameHahaha Never!
Email
CommentsThat was fun!!! Let's do it again 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 that was even more fun!!! 💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩 Poop stares. Poop likes.

NameHahaha Never!
Email
CommentsThat was fun!!! Let's do it again 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 that was even more fun!!! 💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩 Poop stares. Poop likes.

NameBrookelynn watkins
Email
CommentsYou suck ass💕

NameBrookelynn watkins
Email
CommentsYou suck ass💕

Name😈
Email😈😈
Comments😈😈

NameDavid
Emailmeh
CommentsSTUPID! Waste of time

NameDavid
Emailmeh
CommentsSTUPID! Waste of time

NameAlex West
Email
CommentsAwsome

NameAlex West
Email
CommentsAwsome

NameAlex West
Email
CommentsAwsome

Namearjundhir
Email
Comments

NameMohsen
Email
CommentsShit

NameXitlaly
Email
CommentsAt first I thought that it was gonna say that my phone was gonna get a virus.. It turned out to be really really fun☁☁

Namesabari
Email
Comments

NameRonnie Harkins
Email
CommentsVERY WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NameKevin
Email
CommentsTHX BLAKE!!!!!!!!1!1!

Namelogan
Email
CommentsHEY BLAKE

NameCarolina
Email
CommentsThat was clever. At first I thought it was a warning that my phone was going to get a virus but it tired out to be fun.

NameDaniela
Email
CommentsHi 😄😄

NameHaley
EmailNotgivingemail
CommentsThat's 5m of my life I will never get back.

NameRonnie Harkins
Email
CommentsVERY WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NameAlly
Email
Comments

Namenumber1 white gul
Email
CommentsHello are u imgrent ? My mama is real black

Namenumber1 white gul
Email
CommentsHello are u imgrent ? My mama is real black

NameKowus
Email
Commentssmh... Quite fun too

Namemichael
Email
Commentscool XD

NameAna
Email
CommentsWow hey what's up my name is so cool big booty bye

NameAna
Email
CommentsWow hey what's up my name is so cool big booty bye

NameBryony
Email
CommentsHahaha this is so clever but for a moment I thought it was gonna get me a virus on my phone haha 😹 pmsl

NameTony Lopez
Email
Comments

Namechloe gould
Emailyousuck.com
Commentsthat sucks😹

Namedevarajua
Email
Comments

Namedevarajua
Email
Comments

NameZoey
Email
Comments

NameZoey
Email
Comments

NameZoey
Email
Comments

Namenolan b.
Email
CommentsFuck yeahhhh

Namejoel
Email
Comments

NameSuzann
Email
CommentsWow that was.....

NameAsra_haq_nawaz
Email
Comments

NameDarshan Kannadiga
Email
CommentsGreat!!!! I liked it!!!
my finger got pain by clicking......

NameBishbashbosh
EmailFuckushitbitch
Commentswtf u prick

NameBishbashbosh
EmailFuckushitbitch
Commentswtf u prick

Namedog
Email
Commentsfuck you

Namegeorgia
Email
Commentsfuck you

Namesreeja
Email
Commentshorror...p

Namesenthil
Email
Comments

Namesruthi
Email
CommentsBad

Namei hate u
Email
Commentsdie

NameCatalina
EmailCatniplope99&gmail.com
CommentsLol this is hilarious well until I accident went on the second time😂😭😋

NameShayla is bosser than u!
Email
CommentsThis was genius! And just fun/funny! Nice job who ever the hell u are! 😋 I like 🍕 and I'm a cool kid!😎 Love,
Shayla Marie Shea

NameNatalie
Email
Comments

NameCaleb
Email
Comments

NameSofia
EmailSofiarose at me dot com
Commentswhy would you do this to me

NameTrinity
Email
CommentsHahalol very funny

NameXxMLG420xX
Email
CommentsFuk u m8. thes shite is awefuel. Im prt of mlg u fggt get rekt m8.

NameCheyenne crowson
Email
CommentsThis was horrible

NamePenis
EmailPenis
CommentsPenis

NamePenis
EmailPenis
CommentsPenis

NameDaisey
Email🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈
CommentsWhat is this? I dont get it but oh well. No one will probably see this cause there are so many comments so im just gunna confess that i kill someone before and i just needed to get that off of my chest cause it was eatting me up inside. Anyways bye love you all! 😘

NameHDTV
EmailSparkle_swirl. Neleh
CommentsScrew you

NameHDTV
EmailNo
CommentsScrew you

NameOr nah
Email
CommentsThis sucked ass

NameMckenzie
EmailMckenzieray2006gmail. com
Comments

Name@pikadoge
Email
CommentsI would do that all day the joy of acomplishing something even if it's annoying

Namesheneqa
Email
Comments

Nameayan
Email
CommentsAwsum buddy

NamePaige Langmead
Email
CommentsWishing I wouldn't have clicked this

NamekarthickJonathan
Email
CommentsPraise the Pidha AveMaria Annai Veilankanni HolySpirit Amen.

NameMåns Backman
Email
CommentsThat makes you suffer

Namepriyadharsini
Email
CommentsGsja

Namesabari
Email
Comments

Namekarthik
Email
Comments

Namesabari
Email
Comments

NameSammy
Email
CommentsLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL that was fun

NameChloe
Email
CommentsI just spent a lot of time clicking.

NameMadelaine
Email
CommentsOMG im gonna send this to all of my friends

Nameu 😄meanie
Emailbahahaha dot net
CommentsIt was rly dumb doing the counting...... really liane? Itwas boringggggyyygyyggtg

Nameraj
Email
Comments

NameRiley
Email
Comments

NameJazzy
Email
CommentsThis was stupid yet awesome

NameVictoria
Email
Comments😡

Namejerod
Email
Comments

NameLuca
Email
CommentsWierd

NameAnnoyed
EmailNo
CommentsThat was stupid thanks for waisting my time lol :/

NameA person
EmailA email
CommentsThat was torture u butt

Nameturner
Email
Comments

NameHailey
Email
CommentsThe comments were so funny. I can't believe it made us count and do the abc's!! But it was fun

Namemy names jeff
EmailNO email for u
Comments(kawaiiface)

NameJay
Email
Commentslol just held enter till it went away

NameScarlett
Email
CommentsThat was very fun! Not the least bit suffering . Good job 😀👍👍👍

NameDaelen Boggs
Email
CommentsGreat website, 10/10 would visit again!

NameLeslie af
Email
Comments

NameAJ
Email
Commentsur a twat

NameHaksle
Email
CommentsBest evert!

Name danielle ^-^
Email
CommentsI really liked this so ima put it in my bio on ig and make everyone click it muahahahah cause I'm evil (not really but heheh) =^-^=

Name danielle ^-^
Email
CommentsI really liked this so ima put it in my bio on ig and make everyone click it muahahahah cause I'm evil (not really but heheh) =^-^=

NameVia
Email
CommentsI thought this was porn but then I was screaming at my device for 5 minutes. I

Namealex
Emailnah man
Commentssending this to everyone ik so they can suffer

NameBruh
Emailno
CommentsHa I clicked "prevent this page from creating additional dialogs" and I avoided suffering. Suck on that!

Nameava
Email
CommentsUhhgggg

Nameman
Email
CommentsFuck lu

NameCapo
Emailpapigross123456789 dot comdom
Commentsjeaaaaaa this stupid

NameCourtney Patterson
Email
Comments

NameKaleb perry
EmailIdk
CommentsFollow me on IG at- Block_party__
Add me on snapchat at: Kperry32

NameGhh
Email
CommentsHi

NameAntonio Callejas
Email
Commentspretty nifty

Namenaif khan
Email
Comments

NameKaneki Ken
Email
CommentsSo. Freaking. Annoying.

NameSofia
EmailVal...
CommentsMe He Hi

Namesammy
Email
CommentsWHAT IS THIS

NameBELLA
Email
CommentsTHIS WAS HILARIOUS

NameAnny
Email
Commentsjeg heter ANNY

NameRiley
Email
CommentsLove it.

NameDominie
Email
CommentsDon't Click this Link

NameDominie
Email
CommentsDon't Click this Link

Nameamrish
Email
CommentsYes

NameCarson
Email
CommentsPoop

NameChrysler
Email
CommentsThe things I do for my friends...

Namebye
Email
CommentsFuck you!!!!

NameDave
Email
CommentsSick and nice

Namehey
Emailnbn
CommentsHello

NameDevyn johnson
Email
CommentsAnnoying....

NameFACT OF THE DAY
Email
CommentsA bagel (also spelled beigel, Polish: Bajgiel)[1] is a bread product originating from Poland, traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, which is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked.[2] The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked on the outer crust, with the traditional ones being poppy or sesame seeds. Some also may have salt sprinkled on their surface, and there are also a number of different dough types such as whole-grain or rye.[2]

Bagels are a popular bread product in North America, especially in cities with large Jewish populations,[3] many with different ways of making bagels. Like other bakery products, bagels are available (either fresh or frozen, and often in many flavor varieties) in many major supermarkets in those countries.

The basic roll-with-a-hole design is hundreds of years old and has other practical advantages besides providing for a more even cooking and baking of the dough: the hole could be used to thread string or dowels through groups of bagels, allowing for easier handling and transportation and more appealing seller displays.[4][5]

Contrary to some beliefs, the bagel was not created in the shape of a stirrup to commemorate the victory of Poland's King John III Sobieski over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. It was actually invented much earlier in Kraków, Poland, as a competitor to the obwarzanek, a lean bread of wheat flour designed for Lent.

Linguist Leo Rosten wrote in "The Joys of Yiddish" about the first known mention of the word bajgiel in the "Community Regulations" of the city of Kraków in 1610, which stated that the item was given as a gift to women in childbirth.[6]

In the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, the bajgiel became a staple of the Polish national diet,[7] and a staple of the Slavic diet generally.[8] Its name derives from the Yiddish word 'beygal' from the German dialect word 'beugel,' meaning 'ring' or 'bracelet.'[9] Variants of the word beugal are used in Yiddish and Austrian German to refer to a somewhat similar form of sweet filled pastry (Mohnbeugel (with poppy seeds) and Nussbeugel (with ground nuts)), or in southern German dialects (where beuge refers to a pile, e.g., holzbeuge, or woodpile). According to the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, 'bagel' derives from the transliteration of the Yiddish 'beygl', which came from the Middle High German 'böugel' or ring, which itself came from 'bouc' (ring) in Old High German, similar to the Old English 'bēag' '(ring), and 'būgan' (to bend or bow).[10] Similarly another etymology in the Webster's New World College Dictionary says that the Middle High German form was derived from the Austrian German 'beugel', a kind of croissant, and was similar to the German 'bügel', a stirrup or ring.[11]

In the Brick Lane district and surrounding area of London, England, bagels, or as locally spelled "beigels" have been sold since the middle of the 19th century. They were often displayed in the windows of bakeries on vertical wooden dowels, up to a metre in length, on racks.

Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish-Jews, with a thriving business developing in New York City that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338, which had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all their bagels by hand. The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century, which was due at least partly to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender, his son, Murray Lender, and Florence Sender, who pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels in the 1960s.[12][13][14] Murray also invented pre-slicing the bagel.[15]

In modern times, Canadian American NASA astronaut Gregory Chamitoff is the first person known to have taken a batch of bagels into space on his 2008 Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station.[16] His shipment consisted of 18 sesame seed Montreal-style bagels, produced at the famous Fairmount Bagel bakery in Montreal; Chamitoff was born in Montreal to members of the city's Russian Jewish community and is related to the Shlafman family that owns the bakery.[17][18]

At its most basic, traditional bagel dough contains wheat flour (without germ or bran), salt, water, and yeast leavening. Bread flour or other high gluten flours are preferred to create the firm and dense but spongy bagel shape and chewy texture.[2] Most bagel recipes call for the addition of a sweetener to the dough, often barley malt (syrup or crystals), honey, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, with or without eggs, milk or butter.[2] Leavening can be accomplished using either a sourdough technique or using commercially produced yeast.

Bagels are traditionally made by:

mixing and kneading the ingredients to form the dough
shaping the dough into the traditional bagel shape, round with a hole in the middle, from a long thin piece of dough
proofing the bagels for at least 12 hours at low temperature (40–50 °F = 4.5–10 °C)
boiling each bagel in water that may or may not contain additives such as lye, baking soda, barley malt syrup, or honey
baking at between 175 °C and 315 °C (about 350–600 °F)

It is this unusual production method which is said to give bagels their distinctive taste, chewy texture, and shiny appearance. In recent years, a variant of this process has emerged, producing what is sometimes called the steam bagel. To make a steam bagel, the process of boiling is skipped, and the bagels are instead baked in an oven equipped with a steam injection system.[19] In commercial bagel production, the steam bagel process requires less labor, since bagels need only be directly handled once, at the shaping stage. Thereafter, the bagels need never be removed from their pans as they are refrigerated and then steam-baked. The steam-bagel is not considered to be a genuine bagel by purists, as it results in a fluffier, softer, less chewy product more akin to a finger roll that happens to be shaped like a bagel. Steam bagels are also considered lower quality by purists as the dough used is intentionally more basic. The increase in pH is to aid browning since the steam injection process uses neutral water steam instead of a basic solution bath.

If not consumed immediately, there are certain storing techniques that can help to keep the bagel moist and fresh. First, cool bagels in a paper bag, then wrap the paper bag in a plastic bag (attempting to rid the bags of as much air as possible without squishing the bagels), then freeze for up to six months.[20]

The quality of a bagel may be evaluated by considering the experience it provides as it is eaten and its nutritional content.[21]

The ideal bagel should have a slightly crispy crust, a distinct "pull" when a piece is separated from the whole by biting or pinching, a chewy inside, and the flavor of bread freshly baked.[21] The taste of a bagel may additionally be complemented by additions cooked on the bagel, such as onion, garlic, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds.[21] The appeal of a bagel may change upon being toasted.[21] Toasting can have the effect of bringing or removing desirable chewiness, softening the crust, and moderating off-flavors.[21]

A typical bagel has 260-350 calories, 1.0-4.5 grams of fat, 330-660 milligrams of sodium, and 2-5 grams of fiber.[21] Gluten-free bagels have much more fat, often 9 grams, because of the ingredients which are used to replace wheat flour.[21]

A distinction between two styles of traditional bagel in North America have come to be known as the Montreal-style bagel and the New York-style bagel,[22] although both styles represent sets of traditional methods used in Eastern Europe before their importation to North America and the distinctions are somewhat less uniformly employed than often believed.

The "Montreal style bagel" contains malt and sugar with no salt; it is boiled in honey-sweetened water before baking in a wood-fired oven; and it is predominantly of the sesame "white" seeds variety (while, for instance, bagels in Toronto are similar to those made in New York in that they are less sweet, generally are coated with poppy seeds and are baked in a standard oven).

In distinction, the "New York bagel" contains salt and malt and is boiled in water before baking in a standard oven. The resulting bagel is puffy with a moist crust, while the "Montreal" bagel is smaller (though with a larger hole), crunchier, and sweeter.[23] For instance, Davidovich Bagels, made in NYC, are a recognized wholesale manufacturer of bagels that still use these traditional bagel making techniques (associated here with the "Montreal-style bagel"), including kettle boiling and plank baking in a wood fired oven.[24]

As suggested above, other bagel styles can be found in other places, akin to the way in which families within a given culture employ a variety of methods when cooking a specific indigenous dish. Thus, Chicago-style bagels are baked or baked with steam.[25] The traditional London bagel (or beigel as it is spelled) is harder and has a coarser texture with air bubbles. Furthermore, in Canada the distinction is made between Montreal and Toronto bagels as opposed to the one cited here between Montreal and New York bagels.

Poppy seeds are sometimes referred to by their Yiddish name, spelled either mun or mon (written מאָן), which is very similar to the German word for poppy, Mohn, as used in Mohnbrötchen. American chef John Mitzewich suggests a recipe for what he calls “San Francisco-Style Bagels.” His recipe yields bagels flatter than New York-style bagels, characterized by a rough-textured crust.[26]

In Poland, bagels are sold in the bakery in Kielce's Market Square and are well known in the city. Polish bagels are usually sold with sesame and poppy seeds.[citation needed]

In Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, the bublik is essentially a larger bagel, but having a wider hole. Other ring-shaped breads known among East Slavs are baranki (smaller and drier) and sushki (even smaller and drier).

In Lithuania, bagels are called riestainiai, and sometimes by their Slavic name baronkos.

In Finland, vesirinkeli are small rings of yeast-leavened wheat bread. They are placed in salted boiling water before being baked. They are often eaten for breakfast toasted and buttered. They are available in several different varieties (sweet or savoury) in supermarkets.

German Bretzel, (which are soft and are either formed into rings or long rectangular shapes) are somewhat similar to bagels in texture, the main exceptions being the shape and the alkaline water bath that makes the surface dark and glossy. In addition, traditional Mohnbrötchen, which are covered in poppy seeds, have a similar flavour to many bagels in that they are slightly sweet and rather dense in texture.

In Romania, covrigi are topped with poppy, sesame seeds or large salt grains, especially in the central area of the country, and the recipe does not contain any added sweetener.

In some parts of Austria, ring-shaped pastries called Beugel are sold in the weeks before Easter. Like a bagel, the yeasted wheat dough, usually flavored with caraway, is boiled before baking. However, the Beugel is crispy and can be stored for weeks. Traditionally it has to be torn apart by two individuals before eating.[citation needed] In Turkey, a salty and fattier form is called açma. However, the ring-shaped simit, is sometimes marketed as Turkish bagel. Archival sources show that the simit has been produced in Istanbul since 1525.[27] Based on Üsküdar court records (Şer’iyye Sicili) dated 1593,[28] the weight and price of simit was standardized for the first time. Famous 17th-century traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote that there were 70 simit bakeries in Istanbul during the 1630s[29] Jean Brindesi's early 19th-century oil-paintings about Istanbul daily life show simit sellers on the streets.[30] Warwick Goble made an illustration of these simit sellers of Istanbul in 1906.[31] Surprisingly, simit is very similar to the twisted sesame-sprinkled bagels pictured being sold in early 20th century Poland. Simit are also sold on the street in baskets or carts, like bagels were then.

The Uyghurs of Xinjiang, China, enjoy a form of bagel known as girdeh nan (from Persian, meaning round bread), which is one of several types of nan, the bread eaten in Xinjiang.[32]

In Japan, the first kosher bagels were brought by BagelK (ベーグルK) from New York in 1989. BagelK created green tea, chocolate, maple-nut, and banana-nut flavors for the market in Japan. There are three million bagels exported from the U.S. annually, and it has a 4%-of-duty classification of Japan in 2000. Some Japanese bagels are sweet; the orthodox kosher bagels are the same as in the U.S.

While normally and traditionally made of yeasted wheat, in the late 20th century many variations on the bagel flourished. Nontraditional versions which change the dough recipe include pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, bran, whole wheat, and multigrain. Other variations change the flavor of the dough, often using blueberry, salt, onion, garlic, egg, cinnamon, raisin, chocolate chip, cheese, or some combination of the above. Green bagels are sometimes created for St. Patrick's Day.

Many corporate chains now offer bagels in such flavors as chocolate chip and French toast. Sandwich bagels have been popularized since the late 1990s by bagel specialty shops such as Bruegger's and Einstein Brothers, and fast food restaurants such as McDonald's. Breakfast bagels, a softer, sweeter variety usually sold in fruity or sweet flavors (e.g., cherry, strawberry, cheese, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, chocolate chip, maple syrup, banana and nuts) are commonly sold by large supermarket chains. These are usually sold sliced and are intended to be prepared in a toaster.

A flat bagel, known as a 'Flagel', can be found in a few locations in and around New York City, Long Island, and Toronto. According to a review attributed to New York's Village Voice food critic Robert Seitsema, the Flagel was first created by Brooklyn's Tasty Bagels deli in the early 1990s.[33]

The New York Style Snacks brand has developed the baked snacks referred to as Bagel Crisps and Bagel Chips, which are marketed as a representation of the "authentic taste" of New York City bakery bagels.[34]

Though the original bagel has a fairly well defined recipe and method of production, there is no legal standard of identity for bagels in the United States. Bakers are thus free to call any bread torus a bagel, even those that deviate wildly from the original formulation.

nited States supermarket sales
2008

According to the American Institute of Baking (AIB), year 2008 supermarket sales (52 week period ending January 27, 2009) of the top eight leading commercial fresh (not frozen) bagel brands in the United States:

totaled to US$430,185,378 based on 142,669,901 package unit sales.[35]
the top eight leading brand names for the above were (by order of sales): Thomas', Sara Lee, (private label brands) Pepperidge Farm, Thomas Mini Squares, Lender's Bagels (Pinnacle Foods), Weight Watchers and The Alternative Bagel (Western Bagel).[35]

Further, AIB-provided statistics for the 52 week period ending May 18, 2008, for refrigerated/frozen supermarket bagel sales for the top 10 brand names totaled US$50,737,860, based on 36,719,977 unit package sales.[36] Price per package was $3.02 for fresh, $1.38 for frozen.
2012

The AIB reported US$626.9 million fresh bagel US supermarket sales (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending 11 April 2012.[37] Fresh/frozen supermarket sales (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending 13 May 2012 was US$592.7 million.[37] The average price for a bag of fresh bagels was $3.27, for frozen was $1.23.

"Bagel" is also a Yeshivish term for sleeping 12 hours straight, e.g., "I slept a bagel last night." There are various opinions as to the origins of this term. It may be a reference to the fact that bagel dough has to "rest" for at least 12 hours between mixing and baking,[38] or simply to the fact that the hour hand on a clock traces a bagel shape over the course of twelve hours.

In Tennis a "bagel" refers to a player winning a set 6-0, and winning a match 6-0,6-0,6-0 is called a "triple bagel".[39]

See also

Appetizing store
Baker
Baking
Deli
Doughnut
Ka'ak
Lender's Bagels
Montreal-style bagel
Simit
Bialy


Citations

^ Definition: Beigel, retrieved from Dictionary.com website July 11, 2011
^ a b c d Encyclopædia Britannica (2009) Bagel, retrieved February 24, 2009 from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
^ Simpletoremember.com (2001). "World Jewish Population, Analysis by City". Retrieved 2008-02-17.
^ Nathan, Joan (2008) A Short History of the Bagel: From ancient Egypt to Lender's Slate, posted Nov. 12, 2008
^ Columbia University NYC24 New Media Workshop website History of the Bagel: The Hole Story, retrieved February 24, 2009.
^ Filippone, Peggy Trowbridge. Bagel History: Bagels date back to the 1600s, About.com website, retrieved March 27, 2013.
^ Altschuler, Glenn C. (2008) Three Centuries of Bagels, a book review of: 'The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread', by Balinska, Maria, Yale University Press, 2008, Jewish Daily Press website, published on-line November 05, 2008 in the issue of November 14, 2008
^ Zinovy Zinic,'Freelance,' in Times Literary Supplement, Nov., 18, 2011 p.16.
^ Davidson, Alan (2006). Oxford Companion to Food (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780192806819.
^ Merriam-Webster's Dictionary definition of 'bagel', Merriam-Webster Inc. online, 2009, retrieved 2009-04-24;
^ Webster's New World College Dictionary definition of 'bagel', Wiley Publishing Inc., Cleveland, 2005, retrieved 2009-04-24;
^ Klagsburn, Francine. "Chewing Over The Bagel’s Story", The Jewish Week, July 8, 2009. Accessed July 15, 2009.
^ Hevesi, Dennis (2012-03-22). "Murray Lender, Who Gave All America a Taste of Bagels, Dies at 81". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
^ Rothman, Lily (2012-03-23). "Murray Lender, the man who brought bagels to the masses". Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
^ "Murray Lender". The Economist. 21 April 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
^ Space Shuttle mission STS-124; International Space Station Expedition 17.
^ CTV.ca Montreal-born astronaut brings bagels into space Sun. Jun. 1 2008 7:29 PM ET; CTV National News - 1 June 2008 - 11pm TV newscast;
^ The Gazette (Montreal), Here's proof: Montreal bagels are out of this world, Block, Irwin, Tuesday June 3, 2008, Section A, Page A2;
^ Reinhart, P., The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Ten Speed Press, 2001, p. 115.
^ Jonathan, Croswell. How to Keep a Bagel Moist, Aug 8, 2011.
^ a b c d e f g Consumer Reports (July 2012). "Top Bagels - Bagel Buying Guide". consumerreports.org. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
^ Spiegel, Alison (May 6, 2014). "Bagel Wars: Montreal vs. New York-Style Bagels". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
^ Horowitz, Ruth (October 17, 2006). "The Hole Truth: Vermont's Bagel Bakers Answer The Roll Call". Seven Days. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
^ Arumugam, Nadia. "Taste Test: Dunkin' Donuts' "Fake" Artisan Bagels vs Real Artisan Bagels". FORBES. Forbes. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
^ "Hometown Bagel, Inc.". Retrieved 2012-04-20.
^ Mitzewich, John (August 6, 2012). "San Francisco-Style Bagels – Taking Things to a Hole New Level". Food Wishes. Blogger. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
^ Sahillioğlu, Halil. “Osmanlılarda Narh Müessesesi ve 1525 Yılı Sonunda İstanbul’da Fiyatlar”. Belgelerle Türk Tarihi 2 [The Narh Institution in the Ottoman Empire and the Prices in Istanbul in Late 1525. Documents in Turkish History 2] (Kasım 1967): 56
^ Ünsal, Artun. Susamlı Halkanın Tılsımı.[The Secret of the Ring with Sesames] İstanbul: YKY, 2010: 45
^ Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi Kitap I. [The Seyahatname Book I] (Prof. Dr. Robert Dankoff, Seyit Ali Kahraman, Yücel Dağlı). İstanbul: YKY, 2006: 231
^ Jean Brindesi, Illustrations de Elbicei atika. Musée des anciens costumes turcs d'Istanbul , Paris: Lemercier, [1855]
^ Alexander Van Millingen, Constantinople (London: Black, 1906) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/39620/39620-h/39620-h.htm
^ Allen, Thomas B. (March 1996). Xinjiang. National Geographic Magazine, p. 36–37
^ Browne, Alaina Flagel = Flat Bagel (review), retrieved 2009-04-24 from SeriousEats.com website;
^ New York Style Baked Snacks
^ a b Baking Management (2008) AIB website data: Bagels 2008, from Baking Management, p.10, March 2009, Statistics from Information Resources, retrieved 2009-03-23 from American Institute of Baking website: Bagels 2008 updated to March 10, 2009;
^ Baking Management (2008) AIB website data: Bagels 2008, from Redbook, July 2008, p.20, Statistics from Information Resources, retrieved 2009-03-23 from American Institute of Baking website: Bagels 2008 updated to March 10, 2009
^ a b AIB International, Bagels 2012. Data obtained from SymphonyIRI Group from scanner data from Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandisers (does not includeWal-Mart).
^ Balinska 2008. pp.4–5.
^ Collins, Bud; Hollander, Zander (1994). Bud Collins' Modern Encyclopedia of Tennis (2, illustrated ed.). Visible Ink Press. pp. 484–485. ISBN 9780810394438.

Bibliography

Balinska, Maria (2008). The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread, Yale University Press, November 2008, ISBN 0-300-11229-7, ISBN 978-0-300-11229-0


External Links

Bagels Return To the Lower East Side (origin of American bagels)
The Bagel's History on H2G2
Einstein, Brothers. The History of Bagels, October 20, 2009
Nathan, Joan. A Short History of Bagels, Slate, November 12, 2008
Weinzweig, Ari. The Secret History of Bagels, The Atlantic, March 26, 2009

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CommentsFamily is loving and they care for u all the time so all u need is family in life and u will be fine 😘😍💖💕�☝👄👄👄👄👄👄😭😭😭😢

NameLibby baker
Email
CommentsThis is fucking rubbish

NameLisb
Email
CommentsThis is fucking rubbish

NameISABEL
Email
CommentsHey

NameMarayray
Email
CommentsThat was so much funnnn!!

NameAngus
Email
CommentsIm on a computer so i didnt have to go through all dat steff

NameAngus
Email
CommentsIm on a computer so i didnt have to go through all dat steff

NameJake Molnar
Email
CommentsYour link does not amuse me, AD.

NameJake Molnar
Email
CommentsYour link does not amuse me, AD.

NameRandi
Email
CommentsLOL!

NameAshley Gioeli
Email
CommentsI was going to give up after the first alphabet, but I'm not a quitter. That was pretty funny though!

NameSabrynn
Email
CommentsSnapchat me @ pqr

NameSabrynn
Email
CommentsThat was fun

NameButt Hole
Email
Commentshey how'r ya.

NameAshleigh
Email
CommentsYou just pulled a twelve year old dan howell not cool man not cool https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB2ERsZsBf8

NamePatrick
Email
CommentsStupid af

NameColin Riley
Email
CommentsThat was awesome

NameIlaria
Email
CommentsUghhhh

Namessssimmmmm
Email
Commentsi thought it was actually gonna go on for like ever

NameJess
Email
CommentsThat scared me

NameYvette
Email
CommentsLol, I was expecting an excellent cash prize or cure for cancer after I sat through that. Very funny.... >:(. ;)

NameYvette
Email
CommentsLol, I was expecting an excellent cash prize or cure for cancer after I sat through that. Very funny.... >:(. ;)

NameYvette
Email
CommentsLol, I was expecting an excellent cash prize or cure for cancer after I sat through that. Very funny.... >:(. ;)

Namefriends
Emailfriends
CommentsKeep you friends and love them because you may not have them forever I just lost my beat friend and I am so upset so make shoure you keep them for as long as you cab

NameUr mom
Email
CommentsHey

NameMaria
Email
Comments

Namebrad1298
Email
CommentsHow can we suffer stupid

Namepoop
Email
CommentsAll i did was hit allow no farther dialogue

NameTheja
Email
CommentsI enjoyed alot

NameIndia Mia Mavers
Email
CommentsWow. You had too much time on ur hands

Namekirankumar
Email
CommentsI didn'forget

NameSigne
Email
Comments

NameNatalie
Email
CommentsThat was kinda fun and annoying who are you anyway? Haha I used my friends email not mine. XD

Nameravi
Email
Comments

NameCINDAY
Email
Comments

NameSwagata
Email
Comments

NameAndre
Email
CommentsBoy

NameAlex
Email
CommentsUmmm. Screw you

NameGoogle Chrome
Email
CommentsI use google chrome... after the first messge it asked me "Would you like to limit further dialogues from this site?" and i hit yes and that was it. Fastest. Way. Out.

NameMack hedquist
Email
Comments

NameRJ Collins
Email
CommentsWanna waste some time? Then this is the best way to do that.

NameRJ Collins
Email
CommentsWanna waste some time? Then this is the best way to do that.

NameMaddi
EmailNo
CommentsYey I luv it >:D

Namelol
Emaillolhoek Hotmail n.l
CommentsLol

NameLol
Email
CommentsI am going to put it on my website :)

NameCooper
Email
Comments

NameEdward
Email
CommentsMy chrome told me to say prevent additional dialogs and i skipped through the whole thing. I already done this on my ipad so..

NameLouise
Email
CommentsThat was fun...



NOT!




HAHAHAHAHAHHAHHAHHhhha

Namefazil
Email
Comments

NameKyleigh
Email
CommentsI love this

Namesatyanarayana
Email
Comments

NameNatalie
Email
CommentsHi

Namedeanna
Email
Commentslarry stylinson is real, kik me at swagmaster_lyfe

NameHannah zastrow
Email
Comments

NameMichaela landrum
Email
CommentsOmg!! This is the funniest prank Ive ever done 😂😂😂👌💯

Namealex
Email
CommentsHi ☺☺☺

NameHarry
Email
Comments

Namescarlet
Emailscarlet dis dick at shitface dot com
Commentsha nerd

Nameeee
Email
Comments🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌

NameKyleigh
Email
CommentsI love this

NameDemarcus
Email
Comments😡😡😡😡😤

NameAlissa
EmailLsndj@gmail…com
CommentsUghhhh

Nameshanequa
Email
Comments.

Namegarrie
Email
Commentsnice one lol thanks

Name@Liambak3r
Email
CommentsThis was the best hour of my life

Name@Liambak3r
Email
CommentsThis was the best hour of my life

Namewill
Email
Commentsk

Namewill
Email
Commentsk

Nameatola kangs
Email
Commentshehehe wastage uf my net pk

NameKevin
Email
CommentsWhat is this-z

NameKevin
Email
CommentsWhat is this-z

Namekees
Email
CommentsI hate this shit my frend! So quit with IT!!!!!!




















I'M SERIOUS

















QUIT














WITH







IT





CRAZY









FOOL

NameLlamaface
Email
CommentsDayum

NameSiri
Email
CommentsWell at least I know my alphabet

NameAlexia
Email
Comments

NameBoo you suck
Email
CommentsYou suck! My friend sent this to me and I suffered. Twice! Ugh

NameMike
EmailOxhard
CommentsFuck you guys.

NameKaylene
Email
Comments<3 soccer, family, and friends.

NameKaylene
Email
Comments

Nametaurem gautam singha
Email
Commentshello

NameSara Curtin
Email
CommentsI just recently lost all of my friends. Coincidence? I think not.

NameLizzy
Email
CommentsSo fun do not add anymore questions or numbers or letters 😷👍😬😁

NameJesus
Email
CommentsWhat kinda shit is this...

NameSarah
Email
CommentsHello

NameHannah
EmailGottiredofyourshit
Commentsmy name pretty much explains it all :-)))

NameCasey
Email
CommentsI suffered

Nameyawson pope
Email
CommentsIt was quite annoying

Nameyawson pope
Email
CommentsIt was guite annoying

NameAudie16
Email
Comments

NameLily
Email
CommentsI thought it was really funny I did it to my mum and she got so annoyed it was sooooooo funny

NameChris mother fucking Lewis
Email
CommentsI got so mad omg 😂😂😂🐙🐙🐙💩💩💩
-C.J.L

Namekady
Email
Comments

NameLion
Email
Commentsthat was so educational I don't think I'll ever have to go to school again, thank you.

NameJackson
EmailSwag
CommentsAwesome!

NameWillow_Candycane
Email
Comments

NameJulia S
Email
CommentsWow...

Namesteven
Email
Comments

Namejackie
Emailjeff
CommentsHoly shit that was hilarious

NameAmanda
Email
Commentsaggravating af but cool

NameJenna
Email
CommentsJai it'll talk been chu of an be egg JC zoo if sh HF an JC zee egg MF at in an JJB dry if sy gm id st GH HB CD SG gm HD st Thu JJB see sh uh

Namefagboi
Email
Commentsplease fuck my ass sir
FUCK MY ASSHOLE
FUCK IT

Nameshivek
Email
CommentsWtf is this

NameDan Hall
Email
CommentsOh my gosh

NameCallum
Email
CommentsHilarious!!!!

NameNicolette grace
Email
CommentsI did It!!!

NameEthan Locklear
Email
CommentsIt was fun

NameIsabel
Email
Comments

Namedanosab
Email
Comments

NameFrank
EmailFranks.guaptrick.com
CommentsSuck my ass. You're really stupid. OH NOOO
OH NO GOD DAMNIT. It's you. STOP
Don't go. Stop going. You're gonna die. Fuck this. Leave me alone. Why are you Still here👿. I'm going away. Bye Bye bye. BRUH.
Leave me alone. Ugh. Leave.

NameFrank
EmailFranks.guaptrick.com
CommentsSuck my ass. You're really stupid. OH NOOO
OH NO GOD DAMNIT. It's you. STOP
Don't go. Stop going. You're gonna die. Fuck this. Leave me alone. Why are you Still here👿. I'm going away. Bye Bye bye. BRUH.
Leave me alone. Ugh. Leave.

Nameraisa karim
Email
Comments

Nameyut
Emailrty
Commentsrdwer

NameSharon mchugh
Email
CommentsGood yin Ava I'm going to kill u when I get you lol

NameBenedict Lim
Email
CommentsLol

NameKirsten
Email
CommentsIt was entertaining but dumb😂

Nameakii.....
Email
Commentshurrrrrrrrr......

NameAdama
Email
CommentsLol that's fun numbers and letters

NamePlato
EmailNone4U
Comments You guys are sick you think no one can see this?

NamePlato
EmailNone4U
Comments You guys are sick you think no one can see this?

NamePlato
EmailNone4U
Comments You guys are sick you think no one can see this?

NamePlato
EmailNone4U
Comments You guys are sick you think no one can see this?

NameDarren
Email
CommentsThis was quite enjoyable for someone with no life but you must know what ta like not to have a life to code somthing so boring

NameLexi
Email
Commentsthat was ridiculous

NameBooty swag anal sex
Emailanal sex at gmail .com
CommentsGo to my email for sex and porn with my gf ;)

NameMackenzie
Email
Comments

Namereally?
EmailReally?
CommentsOMG!!!!

NameGabby
Email
CommentsI literally set here for about an hour trying to get this to go away!

NameSam Boeh
Email
CommentsI suggest you send this link to all your friends

NameMaya
Email
CommentsI can't use as my bio

NameMarc
EmailFhsfgdhcfchhxjg
CommentsFuck this

NameDeano
Email
CommentsYo whoever you are,

That was fuckin hilarious! Great use of code X'D Well played! :P

Cheers,
Deano :)

Namephil
Email
Comments

NameOliver
Email
CommentsCool Fin

NameMarin
Email
CommentsHi what is your lucky number press stop when you get to your luky number or numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 lets stop at 21 because 22 is my lucky number and only mine not any one else's and 12 is mine to so I skipped it don't take my numbers 12 and 22

Nametea:)
Email
Commentssatan applauded you

NameSarah
Email
CommentsHai cool sigt :3

NameOliver
Email
Comments

NameThis website sucks
Email
CommentsJ

Namewilfred sabel
Email
CommentsDo you want to lick your own risk and are not the only thing you have any idea what you are not responsible and is now the same way you think of it as a result of the most important thing is that the material on this site is pussy for the first time 😊

NameMolly
Email
CommentsFunny stuff😂

NameRebecca
Email
Comments

NameE.J.S.A.
Email
CommentsYou are a cruel person!

Name
Email
Comments

Namefofofofofofofofoofofofofofofofofofofo
Emailwertui
Commentse rter ert

Namegggg
Emailgfghhv
CommentsTtg

Namesheryl
Email
Comments???

NameJaymi
Email
Comments

Namedestini
Email
Comments

Namedestini
Email
Comments

NameChristina
Email
Comments

Nameannonymous
Emailyouaintgonnaknow.com😂👊
CommentsOooooohhh, so SHOCKING.☉▵☉ Well that was corny. I see many of those websites anyways..



Nameannonymous
Emailyouaintgonnaknow.com😂👊
CommentsWell that was corny. I see many of those websites anyways.. ☉▵☉凸

NameIris
Email
CommentsU know I could have just pressed the home button and quit....but I didn't!

NameLiam
Email
CommentsWoah

NameLiam
Email
CommentsWoah

NameBio
Email
CommentsIt was quite funny

NameGiancarlo
EmailSasso
CommentsI won

NameRae Cowan
Email
Comments

Name fcg7ytj
Email5thjtehteh
Commentsegtegsreg

NameChloe
Email
CommentsOmg . 😂😂😂😂😂😂

NameChloe
Email
CommentsOmg . 😂😂😂😂😂😂

NameJeremy
Email
CommentsSo glad I finally completed this horrible JavaScript experiment.

Namecamron
Email
Comments

NameBig Dick Tim
Email
Commentssuck a dick snowball

Namepussy
Email
Commentsi smell like fish

NameReni
Email
CommentsNigguh I made it

NameStomachs Sikdar
Email
Comments

NameHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
EmailYOU DONT NEED TO KNOW KID hmltrjkdmhlkdrtmhhy
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͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Name bnfv
Emailspam l3l3
Comments( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Nameturtles
Emailasdfghjkl;'
Comments( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Nameprajakta
Email
CommentsI miss u

NameRashmi
Email
Comments

NameBob
EmailBob
Comments- -
---

Namenishita
Email
CommentsU

Namesameer
Email
CommentsIt is fun

NameRickard
Email
Comments

Namebarbra
Emailhenderson
Commentsi hate this website. its funny for the first few clicks but then it just gets annoying.

Nameyeasin
Emailyeasin54@com
Comments

NameSophia
Email
CommentsOmg its like the middle of the night and I'm clicking away

NameLauren Parks
Email
Comments..

NameHailee
Email
Comments

NameGerps Mcgee
Email
CommentsWhat is this place?

NameChucken Bruh
Emailchucj
CommentsBeast prank!

NameDrew Gardner
Email
CommentsIts even worse on ipad

NameAlexa
Email
CommentsI hate you. (Jk that was fun)

NameEventsDesigns // or EventsHighestScore
EmailTurtles r cool right
CommentsJust went through this on my phone.. Again. Thanks. O_o

NameSamantha
Email
CommentsI love riding horses
☁☁☁☁☁☁☁
☁🎀🎀☁🎀🎀☁
🎀🎀🎀🎀🎀🎀🎀
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☁☁☁☁☁☁☁

NameEventsDesigns // or EventsHighestScore
EmailTurtles r cool right
CommentsJust went through this on my phone.. Again. Thanks. O_o

NameEventsDesigns // or EventsHighestScore
EmailTurtles r cool right
CommentsJust went through this on my phone.. Again. Thanks. O_o

NameN
Email
CommentsGood idea, this was amusing

NameNick butler
Email
Comments

NameKiana
Email
CommentsHahaha so trolly..; gonna send it to every!!!

NameMaker of the site
EmailTRooled
CommentsYou colud have just held down the enter key if you were on the computer HA Trolled :]

NameEventsDesigns
EmailFAKE AT DOT COM M8
Comments250+ People are coming here now. :)

NameGabe Newell
Email
Commentsi love your site

Namekwamboka
Email
Comments

NameAlex
Email
CommentsBest troll ever

NameKathryn
EmailLytle
CommentsIck

NameNitlof
Email
CommentsMellanslag efter punkt.

Namehnvb
Emailtyfgh
Comments

NameDerek Degrate
Email
CommentsGreat site

NameDanny_j42
Email
Comments

Namedylan mirandilla
Email
CommentsXD

NameKody
Email
Comments

Namecharlotte
Email
CommentsWOW i can't believe it my parents said that i did not have to go to school becasuse this was so educational

NameDemi Flewellen
Email
CommentsSeriously.….….........

NameDariush Onsori
Email
CommentsEmail me for a good time

NameLily
Email
CommentsWell that was a waste of time

NameAvery
Email
CommentsThat was entertaining xD

NameThe B0SS
Email
CommentsThank you for that educational process.... It was fun and very amusing!

NameTrisha
Email
CommentsWell that was fun...............
-_-

NameAnastazia
Email
CommentsU did u do that

NameSebastian
Email
CommentsShould have gone to 69

NameSaher <3
Email
CommentsLol I saw this on Yasmine's IG

NameSaher <3
Email
CommentsLol I saw this on Yasmine's IG

Namebarbie
Email
Comments

NameBecca
Email
Comments

NameKaren
Email
CommentsFunny

NameLol
Email??
CommentsFuck you why are you doing this??

NameAnonymous
Email
CommentsHeheh A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P ! " £ $ % ^ el dkgfidus gi Great popups

Namebhagya
Email
Comments its really soo funny and enjoyable

NameAmanda
Email
CommentsFunny but annoying

Nameatu
Email
Comments

Name🔮Lilly🎈👽🍭
Email
CommentsHola

NameLochlyn Treadway
Email
Comments

NameHailey
Email
CommentsThis is dumb

NameTrey Herrington
Email
CommentsWow. Thanks Chris.

NameTatum freund
Email
CommentsI LOVE THIS!!!

NameAmy
Email
CommentsBANTER!

Namenardin
Email
Comments

NameBenjamin
Email
Commentswow such swag

NameRyan
Email
CommentsI found this on my friends instagram.

NameAnup shivankar
Email
Comments

Nameali
Email
CommentsYo b i love you so much now suck ur mum

Namepedro watret
Email
CommentsFs!!!

NameVishav
Email
CommentsSa åt dig att inte klicka, lilla minimoj :)

Namejulia
Email
CommentsHi

Namelara
Email
CommentsNice!!

NameSarah
EmailSomeone@somewhere dot com
CommentsWell that was a waste of time!

NameKia
Email
Comments

NameAna
Email
CommentsLOL i put this on instagram and a bunch of people clicked on it and got mad!!

NameJamal baker
Email
Comments

NameJeremy May
Email
CommentsThis was sooooooo annoying. I almost stopped but then I kept going.

Namebaz
Email
CommentsLuke is a chimp

Nameerick
Emailumm
CommentsUmm

Nameerick
Emailumm
CommentsUmm

Nameerick
Emailumm
CommentsUmm

Namekayla
Emailidk
CommentsAlyssa is bae

Namekayla
Emailidk
CommentsAlyssa is bae

Namesandhya
Email
Comments

Name💋💋💋💋💋 Kaelyn 💋💋💋💋💋
Email
CommentsChase Maynard is sexy af😍😍😍😍😘😘😘😘👅👅👅👅👅👅💦💦🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Nameafsal
Email
Comments:*

NameEmmppgs
EmailH'&/!2@
Comments7 mins I'm never gonna get back😂

NameNisha
EmailVijaynisha592@gmail
CommentsAwsm fun.. :-)

NameHello
EmailEmail.gmail.com
CommentsHelloooo

NameYu min
Email
CommentsLel

Namefaham
Email
Comments

Namebrendan
Email
CommentsGpd this killed me

NamePatrice Morgan
Email
Comments

Namesiron is bae
Email
Commentssiron is better than siri. siri is old (but sexy) 😂😂😂😂😂😂

NameEdu Limo
Email
Comments

Namesiron is bae
Email
Commentssiron is better than siri. siri is old (but sexy) 😂😂😂😂😂😂

Namesiron is bae
Email
Commentssiron is better than siri. siri is old (but sexy) 😂😂😂😂😂😂

NameSlayer5015
Email
CommentsLol nice trick

NameSarah
Email
Commentswho ever made this website is extremely clever...
I hate all the clicking but it is genius.

NameSeth
Email
Comments

NameLexie 😘😘
Email
Comments😘😘💖💖💖💕💕💕💕

NameLexie 😘😘
Email
Comments

Namedaniela
Email
Comments

NameDe'Andre
Email
CommentsThis was sum bullshit man. Aight I'm out , piece niggaz

Namehello
Email
CommentsDO NOT DO THIS AT ALL

Namehello
Email
CommentsDO NOT DO THIS AT ALL

NameMya villar😜💕
Email
CommentsOk so that was annoying/awesomeness

NameOne whit problems since i got this far🚶
Email
CommentsHahahhaahhahah😂😂😂 geanius!!!!

NameKlara
Email
CommentsSweet Jesus, what the hell was that good for? But it was kinda fun..lol

NameKali
Email
CommentsFor fucks sake

NamePraveen
Email
CommentsNice

NameDaniel Gebran
Email
Comments

NameSRah
Email
CommentsWhy

Nameakshay
Email7760474631
CommentsYes yes yes

NameMolly watts
Email
CommentsThis is pointless and stupid it waisted like 10 minutes of my day😫

NameMolly watts
Email
CommentsThis is pointless and stupid it waisted like 10 minutes of my day😫

Namejael
Email
Comments

Namek1n$3y
EmailDa fuck
CommentsHahah😂 smooth😎😎

Namealma gpe la chica
Email
Comments

NameKasey.
EmailSuckmyass.com
CommentsFollow me on Instagram doe. @quesadillaa_ ;)

NameKiera 💃💘💚💙🏉👑💖
Email
CommentsThis sucked ass

NameJajajajajaj
EmailAhhahahah.com
Comments

Nameemma wise
Email
CommentsH ayyyy
Wyd weridos

Nameemma wise
Email
Comments

Nameemma wise
Emailejwise2004@gmail
Comments

Namelol
Email
CommentsI lol'd

Namepene
Emailpene
CommentsPene

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Nameluca zovighian
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Namerjiswaller
EmailJomama
CommentsFollow me on instagram rjiswaller follow you back

Namerjiswaller
EmailJomama
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Namerjiswaller
EmailJomama
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Email
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EmailGmail is AWESOME!
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EmailIS READYYYY
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Email
CommentsI enjoy anal with middle-aged men.

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Email
CommentsFOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM:

jessica.the.teddybear.slayer

and

smosh.is.love.smosh.is.life

and

the._.internet._.ruined._.us



ALSO CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE, IT HAS FANTAGE STUFF ON IT

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Namesubhash
Email
CommentsSupwer

NameManali
Emailthis_is_not_a_real_email.gmail.com
Commentsfiretruck

NameNick
Email
Comments

NameJP
Email
CommentsThat was so annoying how do u make one of these if I have to suffer so will my followers on insta

NameSavanté🙅
Email
Comments😂😭👊

NameBruh.jenny
Email
CommentsDont click !!!!
You had to 😐
Tf
Ur stupid
You should have listen
But you didnt
So
Ur gonna stay here
FOREVER 😈
Haha
Lets count
1
2
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NameKibz
Email😡👿👎
CommentsThis thing is a waste of time…

Name#theflyingunicorn
Email✌️💪
CommentsGo on my insagram Theflyingunicorn1908

NameCYB
Email
CommentsNice little time waster.

NameDestiny Jackson
Email
Comments

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CommentsGG

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CommentsLoooooooooooool
....


#DEAD

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#DEAD

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Email
CommentsUrghhhhh 😂😂

Nameveryne omolo
Email
Commentswhat the hell, pwahahaaaaa......its like will stay there forever!!! damn!

Namesavannah
Email
Comments

NameJohnathan
Email
CommentsI have no limits

NameJessica
Email
CommentsOmg I thought it would go on forever! It was hilarious. My friends and I got really annoyed with it and I was the only one to finish😂 This made my day lol

NameEmilia
Email
CommentsOmgggg I thought I would die clicking😅 but really this annoyed the hell out of me😂

NameEmilia
Email
CommentsOmgggg I thought I would die clicking😅 but really this annoyed the hell out of me😂

NameAlexis Stump
Email
CommentsI follow you on instagram (lexiboowuvsyew) and I loved your website, it made me smile and I live the things you post cx

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Email
CommentsMeh.

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Email
CommentsYour site just made my day Lol (y)

NameKate
EmailI frckin hate this site!! dot com
CommentsOMFG THIS WEBSITE MADE MY FINGERS HURT!!!

WHAT KIND OF SITE IS THIS???!!!

OMG WHY WOULD MY FRIEND TELL ME TO DO THIS... boooo hoooo

NameMarissa
Email
CommentsLoll I was so angry at this

NameBella
Email
CommentsWow. Just. Wow.

NameSaylor
Email
CommentsWell, that wasn't annoying at all!

Nameperson
Email
Commentswhy did we all waste our time

NameKelley
Email
CommentsWHAT KIND OF PERSON DOES THIS


THIS IS PURE EVIL

IM PRETTY SURE AT ONE POINT I GOT CLOSE TO CRYING

NameMaureen
Email
Commentsthis is so fucking stupid

NameCathleen Carmody
Email
CommentsElla Schotz recommended this to me. It was not worth a minute of my precious time!

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Emailmy email is cool
CommentsHate this

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Email
CommentsMy friend recommended this- not worth it

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EmailVhhjjk
Comments

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Email
Commentsårisbæn

NameEthan
Email
Commentslol this website isnt funy xdddd

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Email
CommentsImpressive but took a long time hahaHaha

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Email
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Namesiddharth
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Emailnone of your busyness
CommentsIt was annoying when I first saw this and with the ABC thing but in glad I did it. Follow me on insta @susan_anj

NameGrace
Email
CommentsFuck you

Name damji
Email
CommentsHaha...never knew i can be that patient..

Namenimo
Email
CommentsNever do that again

Namenimo
Email
CommentsNever do that again

Namesaroj
Email
Commentslove is death do not try

NameTom Brady
Email
Comments2014 AFC Champs

2015 Superbowl 49

NamePENIS
Email
Commentshasdfhas hasd asdj as d

NameK-Rey
EmailSup
CommentsOmg! Such wow, Much amazement

NameKaleb Gould
Email
CommentsLove it

Namezoe
Emailwestrick
Commentsdie

NameKlub
Email
CommentsI. Did. It.

NameShrek
Email
CommentsSHREK IS LIFE!!!

NameMary
Email
CommentsOmg, I did it like three times... Funny

NameEllie Burk
Email
CommentsHot girls message me!! I love a nice rack #demtittiesdoe

NameEllie Burk
Email
CommentsHot girls message me!! I love a nice rack #demtittiesdoe

NameEllie Burk
Email
CommentsHot girls message me!! I love a nice rack #demtittiesdoe

NameHannah
Email
Comments#Perks of Google Chrome

Namelee bossman
Email
Comments;-) ;-) ;-) it was hilarious!! But time wasting was real.

I was busy clicking ok like an idiot Hahahahahahahahaha

Namehelene
Email
CommentsFunny yet annoying

NameLaosna
Email
CommentsOh my god, lol

Namedannyice
Email
CommentsI don't like this for realar please take me out..or bera still feed me with 18+

Namesunaina
Email
Comments

NameNunya Bussiness
Email
CommentsFun af, dude. :D

Namejohn mwangi
Email
Comments

Namejordan
Emailowens
Commentsu remind me of my uncle :)

NameKlara
Email
CommentsElohel

Namemakayla
Emaila
Comments

NameAngela
Email
CommentsThis was so much fun! It was hillarious too!!

Namesabby
Email
CommentsI did it gurls

NameJohn Mark Moore
Email
Comments

NameNikki
Email
CommentsOMFG I FUCKING HATE WHIEVER THE HELL DID THIS TORTURIZING AHIT IT WAS SO ATUPID AND I THOUGHT IT WOULD TAKE TO A GOOD WEBISITE But Hahahahaha lol it got me good

NameCalvin
Email4SS H0L3
CommentsHaha Lindsay I made it!

Namecalvin waye coole
Email
CommentsMy girlfriend sent me a link to come here idk why.

NameCade Moody
Email
Commentsi made it bitches

NameMelissa Egger
Email
Comments

NameMaryjane
Email
CommentsI hate you

NameRYAN connelly
Email
CommentsIt's suck my dick

NameGabby
EmailStephney iCloud.com
Comments

NameAlicia
Email
Comments

Namehaley
Email
Commentsthat was alot ok clicks

NameFuck you
EmailI hate you
CommentsFuck you so much

Namenura mohammad tsoho
Email
Commentsunderstand nt standing

NameJohannes
Email
CommentsThat was fun

Nameizzy c;
Email
Commentsi finished the frankly pitas virus

NameIsabel
EmailSallynibbsjwjxjdjsjdj
Comments

Namekisangula
Email
CommentsCurious humans

NameGabe Hampton
Email
CommentsYou are the greatest troll who ever lived😂😂

NameThe Master
Email
CommentsAhhhhhhhn it was kinda fun...going like ok ok ok ok ok..........

NameThe Master
Email
CommentsAhhhhhhhn it was kinda fun...going like ok ok ok ok ok..........

NameAlex Gardner
Email
CommentsI'm hungry and don't want pizza 😂

NameKakishe
Email
Comments

NameYour mum
Email
CommentsHard lad

NameAmanda
Email
Commentswow. human curiosity.

Namea
Emaila
Commentsa

Namea
Emaila
Commentsa

NameReagan
Email
Comments

NameRyan Terrell
Email
Comments

NameGabby
EmailStephney iCloud.com
Comments

Namecoz serghis
Email
CommentsHola

NameMikayla✂BRUH
Email
CommentsMY GAWD

NameButt
EmailFuck
Comments10/10 would bang

NameMaya
EmailMkeesey01@gmail com
CommentsToday's my last day of chemo!!!!!!

NameMaya
EmailMkeesey01@gmail com
Comments

NameRyleigh
Email
CommentsThat was fun

Namemetrin mumbi
Email
Commentssoooo fun.

Nameirene
Email
CommentsI liked it

Namehafsa
Email
Comments

Namehafsa
Email
Comments

Namekevin
Email
CommentsLol

NameAriel miller
Email
CommentsIt ducks

NameRonald
Email
CommentsU r the greatest troll that ever lived this was so great thank u for wasting my time it was very worth it 😂😂👌👌✌️✌️

NameKiraly
Email
Comments

NameLuke
Email
CommentsThis is halarious 😂😂

NameTrey Jara
Email
Comments😜

NameMaya
Email
Comments

NameKlaryce
EmailForget about it
CommentsYou think your funny

NameBryanna McCoy (aka) BÆ
Email
CommentsYEAH!!! MADE IT AND DONT MAKE IT SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LONG AGAIN PLZZZZZZ!!! 😡 You just waisted my time (for realz)!😵😵😑😑😡

NameNiamh
Email
CommentsThis took so long & I got really worried but I did it YAYAYAYA😂💓

Nameshellsea
Email
Commentscul

NameAbigail schick
Email
CommentsFuck me

Nameg.erald
Emaildontfuxkmeplease
Commentsadvertising because eh.

follow me on insta g.erald

NameJennifer Gonzalez
Email
CommentsOMG it was funny at first but then it just got annoying

NameJennifer Gonzalez
Email
CommentsOMG it was funny at first but then it just got annoying

NameBetty😁😁😂😂😂
Email
CommentsOmg!!?? Lmaoo😂😂😂 that was funny at first i was boutta die buh then it started getting annoying after the reapeting of the alphabet thennn u did the number i was like ohh goshhh whyy??!?!?

NameNick
Email
Comments😂😂

NameMax Freed
Emaildatroutman.com
Commentshuh?

NameMax Freed
Emaildatroutman.com
Commentshuh?

NameRatchet whore queen (leslie)
Email
CommentsWtf did i just spend my time doing?

NameChris espina
Email
Comments

Namevicky😴
EmailTakesTheMic.Co.uk
Commentsmy bestfriend out me into this😴i thought it would never end💁

NameTanya
Email
CommentsI did it

NameTanya
Email
CommentsI did it

Namegayunime
Email
CommentsGw6sbj saw ex

Namegayunime
Email
Comments

Nameewen
Email
Comments

Name@_.bulletproof._ (insta)
EmailThe actual fuck bruh
CommentsFuck u I wanted to watch supernatural but now it's gone, I'm gonna find u 👺

Name@_.bulletproof._ (insta)
EmailThe actual fuck bruh
CommentsFuck u I wanted to watch supernatural but now it's gone, I'm gonna find u 👺

Name@scarlettmanfredi_ {on insta}
Email
Commentsdude i grew old during that

Name@scarlettmanfredi_ {on insta}
Email
Commentsdude i grew old during that

NameJudy Cat
Email
CommentsWowee

NameA chrome user
Email
CommentsChrome: Prevent this page from creating additional dialogs.

HELL YEAH!

NameSatya Nadella
Email
CommentsOh my god, i made it. Wasn't it fun?

IF IT WASN'T, YOU DIE!

Windows 10 is coming out. You better be hyped.

NameDaki
Email
CommentsAre you bored?! How did you get here?! LMAO

NameCalla
Email
CommentsFuck yeah made it all the way

Nameemi
Emailhihihojijn
CommentsTHIS CFUXKING WEBSITE

NameTaleah
Email
CommentsI don't know what this is

NameOliva
Email
CommentsI don't like counting anymore

Namearthey
Email
Comments

Namearthey
Email
Comments

NameI Don't Care
Email
CommentsRoman Reigns Shouldn't Have Won The Royal Rumble

NameLibby
Email
Comments

NameFuck you you cunt
Email
Comments
I HAD A BABY DURING THIS U FAG

NameFuck you you cunt
Email
Comments
I HAD A BABY DURING THIS U FAG

Namemaureen
Emailkfaith480@gmz
Comments

NameBigCox
Email
Comments

NameMichelle
Email
CommentsThis was ridiculous hahaha. I had nothing to do though, so...

NameHei
Emailemiliejenten123
Comments

NameDave
Email
Commentswww.metrotowingcalgary.com

Nameparth patel
Email
CommentsIts simple whatever page will open i don't care i just want tp know what is this and i open it...

Nameparth patel
Email
CommentsIts simple whatever page will open i don't care i just want tp know what is this and i open it...

Namebe myself
Email
CommentsIt is so funny.... haha

Nameroimata
Email
Comments

Nameaquib
Email
Comments

Namesue babz
Email
Comments

NameARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME
Email
CommentsI thought there was gonna be a jumps are tbh

NameTatum freund
Email
CommentsOmg I love this hahah 😂

NameHailie Morasky
Email
CommentsLol...I was laughing so hard...I'm in my car and my parents looked scared... thanks for the laugh

NameEllenie
Email
CommentsHaha I loved this.. U made me laugh soooo hard and I'm like just sitting her balling out laughing lol 😂

NameEllenie
Email
CommentsHaha I loved this.. U made me laugh soooo hard and I'm like just sitting her balling out laughing lol 😂

Nameshannon
Email
CommentsThat was annoying.... errr😠😠😠 time i will never get back in my life

Namelaurenn
Email
Commentsum

Namewtf I Want nudes (bri)
Email
CommentsTake at least your shirt off
-love bri

NameCiara R.
Email
Comments

NameCiara R.
Email
Comments

NameAutumn
Email
CommentsHi

Namefuck you
Email
CommentsYou stole this from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBrVNS81BCo&src_vid=LB2ERsZsBf8&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_1989286691

NameMaya
Email
CommentsThat was so boring

NameMaya
Email
CommentsThat was so boring

NameDylan
EmailZuleger
CommentsLol

NameJoe
Email
Comments

NameJoe
Email
Comments

Namejcaz
Email
CommentsWe did it, nana. We made it!

Namevimal
Email
CommentsIts fun i like it..make it easier and customise to wish for a friends party

NameNabeel
Email
CommentsVery bad

NameMinhajul Islam
Email
Comments Nice

NameCleazz
Email
CommentsWoooow omg! That was very very long! Sorry for my bad English!

Namesafiya yasmeen
Email
CommentsLol.. osum

Named
Emailadsad
Commentssdadad

Namesamuel njenga
Email
Comments

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Emailjohndeb
Comments

Namelolman
Emailkjjjjjj
Comments

NameTyler Mallay
Email
Comments

NameZach
Email
CommentsThat was fun! Very funny waste of time. Lol

NameSomeone
Email
CommentsI don't like people that make me suffer!!!

NameAriel Williams 👍☺️
Email
CommentsThis was fun but obnoxious lol :)

NameVivian
Email
Commentsnice one lol I was very entertained

Nameedward
Email
CommentsFunny

Nameperla
Email
Commentsily torrance ik we have only known eachother for like a semester but ur really fun to hang out wit ur chiil sweet nice really.funny sometimes bosy 😒😒😒😒but i still love u thx for everything😘😘😘 PERLA HERNANDEZ

NameSeana Stolz
Email
CommentsWtf luv seana

NameMariah
Email
Commentswelp

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Email
CommentsI hate you

NameIzzy
Email
CommentsI hate you

Namefedef
Emailmeow.com
Comments

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Email
Commentshi, ethan how are you? what are you doing?

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Email
Commentswelp

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Email
Commentslike seriously

NameSandra
Email.....
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Email
Comments

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Email
Comments

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Email
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Email
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Email
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Email
Comments

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Email
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NameManali
Email
CommentsI hate whoever made this website. I hate you very, very much. But the concept? GENIUS!

NameAngel
Email
CommentsIt's your sissy and that sucked

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Email
CommentsFUCK YOU BITCCH , SUCK MY BALL SACK CUNT

NameDylan
Email
Comments️Damn

NameHugh
EmailJass
Commentstoo easy

NameJulia
EmailWow.gmail . The
Comments

Namediana
Email
Comments

Nameramon
Emailramoniscool77gmail.com
Comments

NameLibby
EmailThomas
CommentsGod, this is annoying

NameIDK
Email
Comments
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being the letter is stopped midstream. ♦
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being the letter is stopped midstream. ♦
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being the letter is stopped midstream. ♦the letter is stopped midstream. ♦ the letter is stopped midstream. ♦
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being the letter is stopped midstream. ♦
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
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The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put up with it.”

“I was generous.”

“He’d have to think it’s a good piece of writing,” she said. “But the children are off limits.”

In her twenties, in Paris, Davis got about two-thirds of the way through “Swann’s Way,” in French, carefully writing down vocabulary and making notes. For the next thirty years, she earned a living mostly through translating. In a talk on the subject, she described her body of work as “books of all degrees of excellence and non-excellence, of interest and no interest . . . including a sentimental biography of Marie Curie, various histories of Chinese politics, art catalogues, the strange novels of Pierre Jean Jouve, a volume of travel essays by Michel Butor, and several books of fiction and literary philosophy by Maurice Blanchot.”

In 1997, Davis agreed to translate “Swann’s Way” for a new edition of “In Search of Lost Time.” She had never read the version by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, whose enhanced Edwardian style may be the reason most readers in English flag after a volume or two, and she didn’t read it then. She started working through the French, page by page, not skipping ahead to see what came next. “Just the way I wouldn’t write anything, even an e-mail, if it wasn’t decently written, the translation has to be good right away,” she told me. “I write it quickly but well, so that some of the time I would feel like a sieve or funnel, or maybe ‘pipeline’ is a better word.”

When she finished her draft, she looked carefully at the previous translations, particularly Scott Moncrieff’s. “Proust is plainer in his language and more straightforward and in a way more contemporary than the translation,” she says. “My aim was to stay very close.” The response to what one critic called Davis’s “sans-serif version,” published in 2003, was reserved: some reviewers felt that her accuracy—which kept intact word order and punctuation, and often preferred an obscure cognate to a flashier English rendering—came at the expense of felicity. The Times, however, praised her “fine rigor and exactitude.”

The book’s success is as important to Davis as that of any of her fictions. “I’m more jealous, almost, of my translations,” she says. “I really want my Proust to take the place of the Scott Moncrieff, because I think it’s closer.”

Davis’s downstairs office has rose-pink floor-length curtains, a space heater, and a cat. Small shelves are filled with books—“Studies in Lowland Scots,” “Famous Dogs in Fiction”—relevant to “Bob, Son of Battle,” a children’s book, published in 1898, that she read as a child and is now “translating” from tricky Victorian English into language a present-day Brearley girl could manage. Her desk is two file cabinets with a board laid across the top. Above it, on a bulletin board, is a homemade family tree that traces her connections to an ancestor whose description of life in a nineteenth-century New England village she has fashioned into verse. A photocopied page from an old notebook serves as another kind of genealogy, some two hundred years’ worth of fiction writers, from Swift to Hemingway. “I found it and thought, Well, that’s worth looking at every now and again,” she said. “I don’t really have the picture in my head. I probably did it when I was quite young. I was always trying to learn and remember.”

It is not only the act of writing that forces Davis to write fiction; reading is a danger, too. “I don’t need to go to other writers to get excited,” she says. “The problem is almost the opposite. Certain kinds of writing will give me too many ideas. I have to keep stopping and reacting.” She recently got a collection of lectures Roland Barthes gave at the Sorbonne. “I found that there were so many interesting ideas in one paragraph that I almost couldn’t read it.”

E-mail can be equally threatening. In the office, Davis opened up her account to a folder of messages from the Listserv at Bard College, where she used to teach occasionally and where Cote was on the faculty for three decades. Material, practically ready-made. Here was a message from a woman named Lisa Hedges, wondering if anyone had seen her glasses. “I loved her name,” Davis said. “This is what it started as: ‘Round, faux tortoiseshell glasses, bifocal lenses, lost sometime Friday, between the Nursery School, B Village, A Sacred Space. It would be great if somebody has found them and they aren’t in a place covered in a foot of snow!’ ”

What it became:

Personal Announcement
Woman named Shrubbs
Has lost faux tortoiseshell eyeglasses

Where?
Somewhere between nursery school
and sacred space

They are possibly
covered by snow.
“This is very vestigial,” Davis said. “Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I kind of like it the way it is.” Sometimes the longer something sits, the more finished it seems. A little while later, she said, “When you’re spying, when you’re looking, when you’re on the alert for a story, part of it is seeing the thing in isolation, apart from the normalizing context.”

Found objects emerge frequently as source and as finished work. (“An Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room”: “Your housekeeper has been Shelly.”) Davis sees this repurposing as thrift. She says, “My grandmother, my mother, and me—we were always making do and saving, very economical. I like the idea that the writing would belong to that practical tradition.”

Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter, and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines she feels free to experiment. “There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing,” she said, walking back into the kitchen, where Cote was waiting for his lunch. “What’s good for my writing is these little places.”

“You’re building your fan base,” Cote said.

“I don’t think I’d ever think of it as ‘building my fan base.’ I would never sit back and do that intentionally.”

“Then they go on YouTube and start talking about it,” Cote said.

“I really like being read by young people,” Davis said. “I love it that friends of my son Theo, who is twenty-five, will say, ‘Is your mother Lydia Davis? I love her work. ’ ”

In 2001, Davis published a book with McSweeney’s, after Dave Eggers wrote her a fan letter. New, young readers found in her work an idiosyncratic approach to the problem of storytelling, something handmade or unmade, each story like a cool thing from an old junk shop. The title piece—“Samuel Johnson Is Indignant:”—was one line long: “that Scotland has so few trees.” (Humor, language, emotion.) “That’s such a radical act and so liberating to put that on a page and call it finished,” Eggers told me. “For those of us who are attracted to people who make room for new ways of defining a short story or who defy categorization at all, she was a real hero.”

By the time FSG published her “Collected,” in 2009, American fiction had more fully accommodated itself to the insubstantial. Everything is too hard to understand until it isn’t. For the first time, Davis’s writing was acknowledged as belonging to an American tradition. Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of FSG, says, “People caught up with her.”

“I have to guard against the tendency—I could make anything into a story,” Davis told me. Several years ago, she started writing a long note to her literary executor, but had to stop when it began to take on a life of its own. “I was trying just to write instructions, you know, ‘My notebooks should go here,’ ‘You should look through my notebooks and make sure to take out any references to blah blah blah,’ ” she said. “But it began to get too elaborate, too detailed, too opinionated, and too irrational. It wasn’t a straightforward document any more. I didn’t really want it to be a story, because I needed it to be an actual letter to my executor.” She could not pull it back into real life, though, and for the time being the letter is stopped midstream. ♦
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY CHANG PARK.
Somewhere in the files of General Mills is a letter from the very-short-story writer Lydia Davis. In it, Davis, who is widely considered one of the most original minds in American fiction today, expresses dismay at the packaging of the frozen peas sold by the company’s subsidiary Cascadian Farm. The letter, like many things that Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird. Details grew overly specific; a narrative, however spare, emerged. “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright dark green,” she wrote. “We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing. . . . We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.” Rather than address her complaint, the company sent her a coupon for Green Giant.

The story that resulted from her complaint, “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” is only a couple of hundred words long and appears in “Can’t and Won’t,” which comes out next month. “Can’t and Won’t” is Davis’s first collection since 2009, when her “Collected Stories” was published: some two hundred pieces, amounting to just seven hundred pages, thirty years’ worth of work. (Her novel, “The End of the Story,” was not included.) Before then, she had been known, if she was known, as “a writer’s writer’s writer”—dismissal by hyperbole. Some said her stories sounded like translations, vaguely alien. The “Collected” surprised people; taken together, her work—cerebral, witty, well built, homey, homely, sometimes vanishingly small—had heft. It was the kind of book that could be used, as one critic attested, to jack a car and change a flat. In May, Davis won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, Britain’s highest literary award for a noncitizen. Michael Silverblatt, the erudite host of the Los Angeles radio show “Bookworm,” says, “Literary people know that at the sentence level and the word level she’s the best there is.”

Davis is sixty-six, with chin-length once blond hair, pale lashes, and eyes the color of blue milk glass. Her eyeglasses are lined with pink, like a conch. She wears small earrings in flattering shades of blue, and the loose, dark clothing of a city shrink. She works from life, in the way that Samuel Beckett did—life’s interactions partway estranged from their contexts—with a notebook always secreted in her purse. Her subjects can be humble to the point of mundanity: lost socks, car trips, neighbors, small fights. (“He said she was disagreeing with him. She said no, that was not true, he was disagreeing with her.”) According to the novelist Jonathan Franzen, “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.”

Davis lives with her husband, Alan Cote, an abstract painter, in a tiny village in Rensselaer County, New York. Cote is large, warm, taciturn, and wears a mustache. Their house is a converted elementary school, built in 1930 by the W.P.A.: neo-Georgian, brick, with Boston ivy and fifteen-foot ceilings. He paints in the gymnasium; the bathtub is in the teachers’ lounge. On the fence outside, a sign made from found sticks spells “L’Ecole.”

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.

But to be curmudgeonly was not the point. As she was noting the mistakes, she kept flipping to the back jacket to look at the author’s photograph: a relaxed, good-looking man, smiling openly at the camera. A little idea started to take shape, enough for a one-line story. “I just write down one sentence,” she said. “This would be me assuming a kind of yenta voice: ‘Such a handsome young fellow to write such bad mixed metaphors.’ ” She smiled. “It’s me feeling a little sorry that I’m writing down all his mistakes, because he looks so friendly and nice and in a way innocent. Some author photos don’t look so innocent.”

In the summer of 1973, when Davis was twenty-six, she and her boyfriend Paul Auster went to live in the South of France, as caretakers of an eighteenth-century stone farmhouse with a red tile roof and an enclosed garden. They had been in Paris for two years already, translating French novels and poems and art catalogues and film scripts—sometimes the pay amounted to five dollars a page—and working assiduously on their own writing.

At Barnard, where Davis went to college, she had been a distracted student, occasionally accompanying Auster to his classes at Columbia rather than attending her own. (They met in the spring of their freshman year.) They played touch football and one-on-one basketball. Davis had long honey-colored hair and a dreamy affect. “She had pheromones, and men and boys followed her around panting,” an old friend said.

Auster was sunken-eyed and soulful, with a cocked eyebrow, or, as he puts it, “a dark-haired Jewish boy from New Jersey with a public-school education.” Davis had gone to Brearley, and then to Putney, a boarding school with farm work, in Vermont. Her father, Robert Gorham Davis, taught English at Columbia—modern short stories—and her mother, Hope Hale Davis, wrote fiction for women’s magazines and occasionally for The New Yorker. First they were Communists, then liberals (he was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities); always they were avid party-givers. Lionel Trilling came to the apartment, Erica Jong, Grace Paley, Edward Said. In memoirs, Auster portrays himself as helplessly impressed by Davis, loving more than he was loved. He writes, “For the most part you were the pursuer, and she alternated between resisting your advances and wanting to be caught.” Among their friends—“arcane, avant-garde intellectuals,” Mitch Sisskind, who was one of them, said—Davis was the eccentric. “We were all reading Kafka,” he told me. “She read Kafka, too—and you can see the influence—but she also read ‘The Making of a Surgeon.’ ”

In the country, Auster wrote poems; Davis struggled to write traditional short stories, of the kind her parents admired. (Later, they would say, Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?) She copied out lines of Beckett to understand how the sentences functioned, and tacked them to the wall. The stories, however, were too masterly to imitate. She read mysteries, weighed herself, threw pebbles in an urn. She tried to make herself stay at her desk till lunch. Auster, on the other hand, could easily work all day.

At the end of August, Davis happened to read a strange little book of very short stories by the poet Russell Edson. Here was a contemporary, an American, whose stories, unlike those of her literary heroes, sometimes failed. Within days, she had started writing strange little stories of her own. She set a goal, two per day. “I didn’t think too hard about what I was going to do,” she told me. “I just snatched an idea from the air, I just went with it, and I didn’t think about what the meaning was of the story, and I still don’t like to do that.” She started to enjoy herself. A month after reading Edson, she wrote “The Thirteenth Woman,” a hundred-and-thirty-eight-word story in two sentences, which she sees as “the first seminal story.” The same day, she wrote “The Transformation,” a page-long fable about a woman who turns into a stone. She worked in a plain cardboard notebook, with a studied hand. “Must conquer this afternoon malaise,” one late-September entry starts, followed by six stories. “She would get an idea, three or four sentences or a paragraph, and she would write it clean off the top of her head and that would be it,” Auster told me. “The stuff she labored over never turned out as successfully.”

Anything Davis wrote might turn, unbidden, into fiction. In her notebook, she composed a letter to her friend Jack LeVert (part of their Kafka-reading, touch-football-playing crowd), who was planning to visit them at the farmhouse:

If you were to look in on us, you would be amazed at the elegance in which we live. You would see us sweep into the driveway in a pale green station wagon, casually pat our thoroughbreds as we entered our restored, pre-revolutionary home with its thick beams and red tiled floors. . . . You would see us during the day with dreamy looks in our eyes writing poetry and little dibs and dabs of nothing, as though we had been born to idleness. Perhaps I would invite you to go sketching and we would take the folding chairs and our pads of sketch paper. Perhaps later we would listen to an opera from where we lounged beside the bright medieval fireplace, our Labradors sleeping at our feet on their deerskin rug. But as dinnertime approached you would notice that we grew nervous. At first it would be hardly perceptible, the smallest haunted look in our eyes, a dark shadow on our faces. You would intercept embarrassed glances. I would blush suddenly and turn pale and when dinner arrived, though the pottery were of the finest quality, hand turned, and the mats from Japan and the napkins from India, the beans would stick in your throat, the carrots would break the tines of your fork and you would recognize the taste of cat. How much more painful is poverty for the caretakers.

“The new piece of paper you like to keep on your desk came in.”
BUY OR LICENSE »
The hardship was romantic, self-imposed. “We both came from families that had enough money to rescue us,” Davis said. “This was all our own choice, really. It was for our so-called art.” When they finally ran out of money, they returned to New York, nine dollars between them. Davis’s father helped get them an apartment on Riverside Drive, and they were married there in the fall of 1974. (Auster, in “Winter Journal,” a memoir: “Given the frequent changes of heart that had afflicted the two of you from the beginning, the constant comings and goings, the affairs with other people, the breakups and makeups that followed one another as regularly as the changing of the seasons, the thought that either one of you should have considered marriage at this point now strikes you as an act of delusional folly.” Davis: “I read about some town in Northern California, where the pastor at the church—or is it the law?—said you’re not allowed to get married without three or four visits to the pastoral counselor ahead of time to discuss your expectations or habits or needs. It’s worked out very well. People don’t get divorced.”) Davis briefly studied to become a speech therapist. Instead, she and Auster moved to Berkeley and published a collection of her pieces, “The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories,” in an edition of five hundred. The poets in their circle loved it.

The following year, expecting a child, they bought an old house in Dutchess County—a cursed house, according to Auster, who found “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in a box on the back porch and a dried-up crow, like an omen, behind a chest of drawers. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1977, and when he was eighteen months old they separated. Auster moved back to the city, and, after they divorced, married the novelist Siri Hustvedt. Eventually, Davis moved back, too, and lived a few blocks from them in Brooklyn to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth. Davis worked as a typesetter at a small Brooklyn newspaper; the checks the paper wrote her bounced.

The question of what constitutes a story is troublesome. E. M. Forster wrote, “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” Davis’s stories have very little in the way of plot; sometimes people get indignant and ask her why she doesn’t call them poems or fragments. (She prefers the deeper associations of the word “story.”) Like thoughts, her pieces are reiterative; she sooner makes chronology a subject than a formal device. She says her work arises from a conjunction of humor, language, and emotional difficulty. Sometimes that means high culture, low culture, and animals; that is, a contradiction, plus the life force. Usually, she sets out to answer a single question and tries to stop between incomprehensibility (too little detail) and boredom (too much). Her longer pieces slacken and drift, but at fifteen hundred words the line is taut. As one of her narrators says, “You can’t tell everyone the truth all the time, and you certainly can’t tell anyone the whole truth, ever, because it would take too long.” Even poets find her concentration bracing. Matthew Zapruder, a poet and editor who keeps Davis’s “Collected Stories” on his shelf and turns to it whenever he needs a jolt, says, “It almost feels like a challenge to poetry. She can do this, why can’t we?”

“By fiction now I just mean a construct that’s a little different from reality,” Davis told me. “One aspect of that is a narrative voice that’s a little artificial, not quite my own.” As a person, Davis is tactful if particular; the speakers of her stories tend to be grand and hysterical, flies in bottles, frustrated by obstacles they can’t see. The woman who goes over and over a sequence of events, trying to establish whether her lover is being unfaithful; the man who calculates the cost per hour of a ten-day affair. (Those two examples come from “Break It Down,” her first full-length book, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1986. That author photo—her frank gaze—gave rise to at least one come-on letter.) “The narrators are overthinking, and the overthinking tends to be funny, but the overthinking tends to be rooted in strong feeling,” Lorin Stein, who worked with her on two later books at FSG and is now the editor of The Paris Review, says. “You have the sense of characters who have a strong motivation to do something absurd and unproductive.”

“I see people sometimes who remind me of my narrators,” Davis said. “I’ll see a kind of mousy, earnest person at a reading, a woman with limp, long, dark hair, kind of very woebegone and sincere.” Some of her narrators, she thinks, are desperate to be understood. “That’s why they go into too much detail,” she said. “ ‘In case you didn’t quite get it, let me explain further.’ ”

When Davis was younger, the obsessions of her narrators tended to be amorous; now they are philosophical. “The Two Davises and the Rug,” in the new collection, is the story of two people named Davis, who “were not married to each other and they were not related by blood.” They are kindred nonetheless: “They were both indecisive people, or rather, they could be very decisive about some things, important things, or things to do with their work, but they could be very indecisive about smaller things, and change their minds from one day to the next, over and over again, being completely decided in favor of something one day and then completely decided against the same thing the next day.”

In the story, “this Davis” decides to sell a red-white-and-black wool rug at a yard sale to benefit a good cause. The rug has been lying in her son’s room, but her son doesn’t live at home anymore. At the yard sale, “the other Davis” considers buying it but doesn’t. By the time he has decided that he wants the rug, this Davis has decided to keep it. For the next twelve hundred words, this Davis worries extravagantly: should she, who had not really valued the rug until someone else desired it, keep it, or should she let the other Davis, whose house is “clean and tidy and thoughtfully arranged,” have it? Which one of them deserves it?

Davis did the same thing with a rug a few years ago, after Theo, her son with Cote, went away to college. “With that story, I’m not leaving out anything relevant,” she says. “But the obsessive quality is exaggerated. A lot is true, the ins and outs of reasoning, but a lot of normal life went on the same. In the story, you get the impression that the rug was the only thing happening. In real life, it’s just one strand. It’s, O.K., let’s see what happens if this rug and this dilemma becomes everything.”

For a contemplative, Davis is remarkably social. When Daniel was a baby, she joined a softball team; later, when Theo was young, she took a line-dancing class. She escapes herself, and the house, given half an opportunity—to collect stories for an oral history of the village, to sit on a town zoning board. “I don’t go into it thinking I need material,” she says. “I follow my interests pretty—I don’t like the word ‘intuitively.’ I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much. Alan tries to be the brake on my impulses.”

Cote’s reservations have not stopped Davis from running for a seat on the governing board of her village. One snowy Saturday morning in late January, she had plans to go door to door collecting signatures with “the other Davis,” whose name is Bill, and who was running for reëlection. For her nominating petition, she needed signatures from five per cent of the previous election’s voters, which amounted to two or three people. (The village has a population of five hundred and seventy-one.) The mayor told her they didn’t really pay attention to Democrat or Republican, and suggested she make up her own affiliation, so she is running as a member of the Schoolhouse Party. “I’m interested to see on a small scale how people get along or don’t get along,” she said.

The temperature was ten degrees. Davis got a clipboard and a notebook and put on her winter coat. She was excited. “But they’re all people you know,” Cote said. When Bill Davis arrived, they drove half a mile down the road, to Helen and John Mullaly’s house. John, once a teacher at Davis and Cote’s schoolhouse, had recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday. Helen, a former head nurse, was in her late eighties. The Davises stayed for more than an hour, listening to their stories, in an overheated dining room crowded with clocks and photographs and figurines. Twice, John showed them a picture, cut from a newspaper, of Davos, Switzerland, where he had been during the Second World War. “Cleared the summit, met the Pope, pushed back the Germans,” he said. When Helen mentioned that the house had been owned by a doctor, who kept a log which she had found in the attic, Lydia’s eyes shone. The different clocks ticked out of time.

Later, Davis said, “I’m kind of always working, in a sense. Sitting and talking to my neighbors, I’m not really working, but I’m always sort of alert to things.” Two things had struck her particularly: the objects in the dining room, and Helen’s remark, as they left, that she loved driving in snowstorms the way some people love skiing—the opposite of a cliché about an old lady. (Davis, unexpectedly, plays tin whistle and Ping-Pong, and several years ago publicly sang scenes from “The Magic Flute” dressed as a witch, in a cast made up mostly of teen-agers.) “I’m not bored,” Davis said. “I don’t like the high-powered literary life. I’d rather sit and listen to Helen and John and their stories than be at a cocktail party in New York.”

On their rounds, the two Davises had stopped in at Bill’s place, a white clapboard house with a single dormer window. “See how clean and nice it is?” Lydia said, entering a dining room with an open fireplace and a Shaker rake on the wall. Susan Shapiro, Bill’s wife, was inside. Naturally, the rug came up for discussion. “Where would it have gone?” Lydia asked. “We had picked out a spot in Mark’s room,” Bill said. “Now I feel guilty!” she said. The rug was still upstairs in her house, in Theo’s rarely used bedroom.

Both Davises asked Shapiro for her signature. Shapiro looked at them wryly and said, “The Two Davises and the Village Board.”

Evasion is the shadow side of overwrought explanation: dwelling on minutiae can mask a problem of unspeakable magnitude. In “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” when Davis objects to the company’s use of the portmanteau word “cremains” in reference to her father—before his death, the company had called him her “loved one”—distress over vocabulary stands in for mortal rage. What is left out gives the shape to what remains. Fictionalizing real events, Davis says, has to do with the selection of material, in the way of a teen-ager recounting to her mother how an evening was spent: “We went over to Joan’s house and hung out and listened to music, and then we went to McDonald’s.” Not the part about the vodka in the orange juice, not the part about the making out. Not a lie, just a different story.

For the most part, Davis leaves her children out of it. They represent a grammar problem in “A Double Negative”: “At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.” In “Selfish,” which Davis calls “a tongue-in-cheek monologue about parenting that’s less painful,” her children, unnamed and featureless, are faint but pervasive, stubborn as ghosts. “The useful thing about being a selfish person is that when your children get hurt you don’t mind so much because you yourself are all right,” she writes. Difficulty arises from not being quite selfish enough:

If you are just a little selfish, you take some trouble over them, you pay some attention to them, they have clean clothes most of the time, a fresh haircut fairly often, though not all the supplies they need for school, or not when they need them; you enjoy them, you laugh at their jokes, though you have little patience when they are naughty, they annoy you when you have work to do, and when they are very naughty you become very angry; you understand some of what they should have, in their lives, you know some of what they are doing, with their friends, you ask questions, though not very many, and not beyond a certain point, because there is so little time; then the trouble begins and you don’t notice signs of it because you are so busy; they steal, and you wonder how that thing came into the house; they show you what they have stolen, and when you ask questions, they lie; when they lie, you believe them, every time, because they seem so candid and it would take so long to find out the truth.
Incomplete selfishness, like a vaccination that doesn’t take, cannot protect against suffering. The only foolproof approach is to be totally selfish, to the point of being “privately relieved, glad, even delighted, that it isn’t happening to you.” In an e-mail, Davis wrote to me, “The narrator takes a pose. Or I take a pose through a confident narrator—in the beginning. Then—as so often happens in actual conversation—once one begins discussing a situation in detail, reliving it, one’s emotions change, one’s relation to the material changes. And that’s what happens in the story. When the narrator goes into detail, about the stealing and the lying, then she loses some of that confidence. She ends up pushing the difficult material away, saying, Don’t let it get near me.”

That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel. As a teen-ager, he started going to clubs in New York City and became deeply involved with drugs. In 1996, when he was eighteen, he was present in the apartment when a dealer named Andre Melendez was murdered by Michael Alig, a former club promoter, and his roommate, Robert Riggs. Auster was given three thousand dollars of Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence, and later pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and served a five-year probation. A decade ago, Hustvedt published a best-selling novel, “What I Loved,” which reimagines the events with all the obliquity of an episode of “Law & Order.” The story features a troubled boy whose mother, a poet, produces work that is “scrupulous, concise, and invested with the comedy inherent in distance.” Hustvedt describes the poet herself as “all boarded up and shut down like a condemned house.”

Lifting from life, Davis is cautious. She tends to ask her friends for permission before including them in stories. “I don’t really want to offend people, so I try to avoid it,” she said. “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.” Her mechanisms can be subtle, though—a change of gender, or of name, or less. Mitch Sisskind recalled being in a bookstore, leafing through a literary journal. “I started reading this story and saw that one of the characters was me, by name,” he said. “I thought I was losing my mind. I’ve never known anyone else that did that. I was flattered, but I was surprised.” She had referred to him as Mitchell, which no one does, thinking that it would disguise his identity.

A few years ago, when Harper’s was preparing to publish “Varieties of Disturbance,” a story about Davis’s mother, who was then still alive, Davis asked Daniel’s advice. (He lives in Florida and works at a performance space.) He suggested a small cut to spare his grandmother’s feelings. When the piece was collected in a book of the same name (a finalist for the National Book Award), she had died, and Davis restored the damning phrase, also at his suggestion.

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” Davis told me one evening, sitting in the kitchen with Cote. “A husband—you can hurt a husband. He does have to O.K. everything.” She turned to Cote. “You veto. But of course it’s not really fair to him, because then he’s called on to be gentlemanly.”

“There’s certain private stuff I don’t think is relevant,” Cote said.

“You’ve put