Can’t & Won’t


In 2013, the American doyen of short, short stories, Lydia Davis, published a book featuring 122 stories spanning 289 pages. Some of the stories are no longer than a page. She entitled the book “Can’t & Won’t”.

I won’t discuss Davis’s book here, as I have some other matter in mind. I can’t do so either, because I haven’t yet read the book.

The book title brings to mind what another famous American writer had said earlier, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.” This may be paraphrased loosely as, “He who won’t read good books has no advantage over he who can’t read.”

In my time, I have known individuals who categorically won’t read certain books, not that they can’t. These include those who

1. Profess never to read fiction,
2. Confine themselves only to Christian books (or books on other religious persuasions.)
3. Swear never to touch another book since leaving school (or college or university.)

In each category, I vividly recall at least one individual smugly proclaiming his position to me – an earnest non-fiction writer, a young church pastor, and a fellow MBA alumnus.

In the spirit of Lydia Davis I shall say no more on the matter, except to wonder how intellectually deprived and under-nourished each of these individuals must be