Tuesday, March 15, 2011
No, not the novel by Jane Smiley. Rather, the newest title in Sarabande's very cool Quarternote Chapbook Series. #9 in this series is Lydia Davis' "The Cows" which is about the three cows that are her neighbors in upstate New York.
Davis is a writer not to be trifled with. Just in the past year she's published a collection of her own short stories, a celebrated translation of "Madame Bovary" and this new chapbook. "Oh, I haven't been up to too much. Just translating French fiction and writing essays about cows." Indeed.
My own personal favorite of hers is "Samuel Johnson Is Indignant". Her brief stories are little magic boxes to be opened again and again. In this form, only Amy Hempel is in her company as far as I'm concerned.
Back to Sarabande for a moment. These Kentuckians are people I've lauded before as a press that finds good writers that are other presses have rejected. Then the big boys come and steal them away. And that, like all theft, is a form of admiration. If you take a look at Sarabande's catalog it quickly becomes clear that there no throw-away titles. There isn't an "oh, why not?" among them. The list is small and considered and something they believe in completely. So, yes, even this book about cows is the real deal.
The chapbook is a pretty little thing that combines images of the cows with Davis' musings from different times of the day and year. The chapbook form is perfect for this kind of project or a longish prose poem--which, in small ways, this actually resembles. The book is $9.95 and is perfect for the bovine lover in your life.
Here is the rest of the series, chronologically and with links to their pages on the website.
Music Like Dirt, Frank Bidart
Lost River, James Tate
October, Louise Gluck
The Wrong End of the Rainbow, Charles Wright
First Things to Hand, Robert Pinsky
The Preacher, Gerald Stern
Contents of a Minute, Josephine Jacobsen
Lucy, Jean Valentine
The Cows, Lydia Davis