‘City People’ by Lydia Davis

I first read ‘City People’ without any knowledge of the literary phenomenon that is Lydia Davis, which is an embarrassing admission. Unsurprisingly, I adored it. Another Davis story written expressly for me, or for the me that might struggle after leaving the city for the countryside. So many of her stories seem to have been written expressly for me, something I suspect is true for many others, damnit. They are sharp, dry and, usually, funny. And often very, very short. In ‘City People’, which at 130 words is shorter than this paragraph, a couple struggle with their move to the countryside, feeling uneasy at the strange noises and quarrelling more. “They cry, or she cries and he bows his head.” Everything is wrong, although not necessarily with the countryside. “We’re city people,’ he says, ‘and there aren’t any nice cities to live in.’”

Collected in Samuel Johnson is Indignant, McSweeney’s, 2001. Also, The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, Picador, 2010. Read online here

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