Here, we are back to the tiniest of stories and another of the geniuses of the shortest prose, Lydia Davis, who takes everything we thought might have been “rules” of writing and breaks them, necessarily, purposefully, brilliantly. Once again, it’s hard to describe this piece, I’d rather you go and read it, to see what Davis does with language, how she chooses to name and unname, whose voices she brings us, and how. This is a perfect example of writerly choice – in showing us what she shows us, she opens up the world of this story, taking it beyond the very specific to the universal of human relationships, of families past and families present, of love and ex-love, of loneliness. Another piece I use often in writing workshops to give writers permission to let go of everything they think they “should” – isn’t the writing world full of “shoulds”? – do, to see what they might do, can do.
First published in Almost No Memory (FSG, 1997), also available in The Collected Stories, and available online here