Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I am enjoying The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, a writer, I must confess, whose work just recently surfaced for me via a review in The New Yorker.  Ms. Davis, I am learning, writes some of the most tightly-woven and efficient fiction around.  Some of her stories are single paragraphs, others but pages in length, and other stories might be mistaken for three line poems . . . but they all tell a story.

In modern idiom I suppose her storiees might be termed "flash fiction"--a relatively new editorial scheme that is meant to compete with the rapidly deteriorating American attention-span.  There are now magazines devoted to this fiction--stories told in five hundred words or less, sometimes a hundred words.  But don't let length be a fooler, these shorter breeds are difficult to write.  I've tried.

In fact, I've had a few of these flash fiction pieces published in the last two years, including one I entitled "Kilimanjaro" and another entitled "Tango".  These are the ones I can remember (and that can still be found in the online versions of their respective magazines).

But Ms. Davis is no doubt in a class by herself when it comes to the quality and scope of her brief affairs.  Most of her fiction might best be described as domestic, which can encapsulate a great deal with regard to marriage, parenting, and work.  But her themes are universal.  And I find this type of fiction very utilitarian, as a story can be read between the interstices of other demands.  There are no excuses with Ms. Davis.  Anyone can find them time to read one of her stories.  All she needs, in some instances, is thirty seconds.

I think I can manage that.  And for those who need something a bit more protracted, you can always read some of her longer stories while you sip a cup of coffee.  Total investment:  five minutes. 

Refresh the mug and repeat. 

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