Reading Lydia Davis

I’m reading Lydia Davis’ short story collection. She certainly plays with form, something I can relate to because my stories tend to jump in time and space from one paragraph to the next. Which proved to be a problem because I couldn’t sell it to popular magazines.

She is highly experimental. One story is just a paragraph. I reread it about three times trying to establish if it is really a story. It doesn’t conform to anything that a story should contain e.g. plot etc. Not that I can see at any rate. It looks like a story, it’s in a collection of stories, but is it a story? It certainly pushes the boundaries of the short story genre to the hilt.

Now that I’m in the middle of the book it appears that the stories are linked. The protagonist in most of them is a woman, not so pretty, who wears spectacles. She goes through a divorce but her ex-husband moves close by to be near their son. She is so enmeshed in the life of said ex-husband and his new girlfriend that she has a breakdown.

She goes into the garage one morning and then she literally cannot move until the evening. She stays there for hours staring at an oil slick. Obviously this leads to her going into therapy. The therapist takes her apart and puts her together in a ‘new pattern’, she says.

But still she doesn’t change her situation. She wants all of them (her, husband, girlfriend) to get along ‘for the sake of their son’, which sees the girlfriend wearing her jacket. She finds her stuff in the pocket. They use her telephone, shower in her house etc.

The theme of most of the stories is: trying hard to be civilized and accept the situation with grace and goodwill and being ill-treated by an ‘unkind’ man. Eish, sometimes women are so obsessed with being nice and doing the best for everyone around them that they destroy themselves.

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